Sunday, April 23, 2017

The explosive power of the Cross.

The name for the explosive ‘dynamite’ comes from the Greek word ‘dunamis.’ That’s some indication of how the writers of the New Testament viewed God’s power. The word is used to describe the works of Christ in healing people, neutralising Satan’s control of people and in rising from the dead.

Is that relevant to people in this century far removed from Christ’s day? As He is the unchanging Lord and His word is alive and active too, it has exciting implications. In writing to the Corinthian church the Apostle Paul explained how Christ’s power is inherent in the Cross. In what way? In the impact the message of the death, entombment and resurrection of Jesus has on people. Some stumble over it! Many think it stupid! However, for others it has a life transforming, destiny changing, relationship enriching explosive effect.

That and much, much more is wrapped up in the word salvation. When the Gospel is shared and believed it become the power of God within the believer’s life. Those things which pollute our memory, offend our conscience, cripple our self-esteem, make us fearful of death and facing God and a myriad of other things are exploded. God has dealt with them at the cross of Christ. When a person accepts that fact, personally, then the Lord’s power does an eternal make-over. The past is done away in His sight. He opens up a new era for you (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Does it last? Without a doubt. Countless the testimonies to that fact. From the New Testament the one I stand amazed at is found in 1 Timothy 1:11-17. He was a murderer, blasphemer, outwardly religious, violently arrogant. He called himself the chief of sinners. However, the grace of the Lord Jesus and the power of the cross changed him. He became the greatest of all missionaries. His testimony is that if the explosive power of the cross of Christ did that for him, it will change anyone. The condition which lights the ‘fuse.’ Hearing the message of Christ and the cross then believing it!

In his final letter before being martyred under Nero’s decree Paul wrote, he had finished the race, kept the faith and looked forward to meeting the Lord. One of his final instructions to Timothy was ‘Preach the Word!’ What word? The word of the cross is foolish to those who perish, but to those who believe it is the dynamite of God for salvation.

1.The power of the cross                                         3.The power of the cross,
Is the Word of Calvary!                                          The message from Calvary.
Promised through prophesy,                                Forgiveness now offered.
Fulfilled in history.                                                 Heaven now opened.
Unveiled, the mystery                                            Sin’s penalty now paid
Of His majesty                                                         Wrath now pacified,
            As                                                                                   By
Emmanuel,                                                               Taking our condemnation,
Son of God,                                                               Suffering our judgement,
Redeemer,                                                                 Purging our defilement,
Who was called, Jesus!                                           When they crucified Jesus!

2.The power of the cross                                       4.The power of the cross
The purpose of Calvary                                           Cancelled the shame of Calvary
Planned before creation                                         Transformed into glory
To secure our salvation,                                         That resurrection morning
Birthed in Bethlehem                                            When the angel declared,
Fulfilled in Jerusalem                                            “He is not here. He has risen”
                 As                                                                                    Now
The promised One,                                                  He is Saviour and Lord,
Suffering Servant,                                                   With a Name above all names,
Passover ‘Lamb,’                                                      Before whom all creation bows.
To be Messiah Jesus!                                              The Word of Calvary’s cross –

copyright Ray Hawkins April 2017.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Jesus the Weakling.

The Amplified Bible translated 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23 and 25 concerning the crucifixion of Christ with mind hammering words. The cross is viewed and described from a sceptic’s response to what happened. ‘Sheer absurdity’ – folly – a scandal, stumbling block- absurd- utterly unphilosophical nonsense - foolish and weak.’ The believer’s response, ‘the foolish thing that has its source in God is wiser than men, and the weak thing that springs from God is stronger than men.

Last week we considered ‘was Jesus a moron?’ Today’s blog asks the question ‘How weak was Jesus to allow Himself to be crucified?’ I have tried to express it in the following poem.

                                                 My God is weak, so very, very weak!
                                                  He didn’t break away from the soldiers
Who placed the cross upon His shoulders.
My God wore their spittle and their taunts.
He must be weak to let them do such things!

My God is weak, so very, very weak!
He never fought when He was whipped.
Never threatened when He was stripped!
He stumbled, fell and the crowd laughed.
He must be weak to let them do such things!

My God is weak, so very, very weak!
No miracle to stop hammer, nail and spear,
No anger to those who screamed and sneered.
Thirsty, thorn crowned, in pain He died.
He must be weak to let them do such things!

My God is weak, so very, very weak!
I’m overwhelmed by His total weakness
When He put aside His awesome greatness
To bear my shame, judgement and death!
Can He be weak to undertake such things?

My God is weak, so very, very weak!
Lifeless, entombed, salvation’s hope dim,
Could He in weakness overcome sin?
The empty tomb declares He ‘did’ win!
Can He be weak to conquer such things?

My God is weak, so very, very weak!
Yet in His weakness I find forgiveness
In His weakness I can enjoy newness.
 My God’s weakness is true love’s greatness.
Can He be weak to achieve us such things?

My God is weak, so very, very weak!
His weakness is my celebration.
His suffering is my Salvation'
His victory is my jubilation!
Can He be weak to be all those things!

My God was ‘weak,’
For me and you
And I love Him for it!
Do you?

From my devotional ‘Captured by Calvary’ ©Ray Hawkins. Available from Christian bookshops  and as an Ebook.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

IsJesus a moron?

The season of the Chocolate Bunny draws near. It is on a takeover endeavour to supplant the Christian celebration we call Easter, in reality ‘The Passover.’ Strange how the human heart thinks it is wise and yet promotes a rabbit to satisfy the heart. But the story of Passover/Easter confronts the rabbit with a story that challenges and arouses either animosity or devotion.

‘The logos of the cross is foolishness to…’ is Marshall’s translation of 1 Corinthians 1:18. Logos is the Greek for ‘word’ and Paul uses it in a two edged way. For logos is a term to describe Jesus in John 1:1. The word for foolishness stems from the Greek meaning ‘moron.’

When you link those two words together you could quite rightly say that some people see Jesus as a moron. That is, He is a fool for going to the cross. The piece of wood which lifted Him up and took His life is the reason for many a person’s estimation of Him. It is easy to admire Jesus for His teaching. There would be agreement as to His worthy actions in healing and feeding people, but the cross! Now that is an entirely different matter.

As you read further into the Corinthian chapter you get an understanding for their reasoning. To the non-Jewish mind, influenced by Greek philosophy, the highest ideal was to obtain wisdom. We still celebrate such men as Socrates, Seneca and Epicetus today. I find it interesting that in the Roman world influenced by Greek philosophy they pursued the mental and debased the moral. Their treatment of slaves, the poor and their acceptance of sexual relationships outside of marriage reveal the limits of wisdom. This is also seen in their views of the gods on Mount Olympus. Romans 1:18-32 is an interesting insight into a Jewish Christian’s view of their society.

Why do people still consider Jesus a moron for being crucified? Why is the preaching and sharing of the story of the cross so offensive? Why does it stir up so much hostility? Is it due to the fact that it offends our view of our own personal worth and right to heaven? Especially when those who are low on the social order are treated the same as those from the more noble, the more sophisticated, the more successful!

Perhaps, just perhaps, this reveals the wisdom of God. How?

God in His wisdom by-passed Humanity’s wisdom as the means of securing salvation. Imagine the philosophical arguments as to which philosophy was the most important and worthy of being the ‘gate’ to glory. How few of us would have passed the entrance exam, especially as any philosophy is subject to change, alteration and challenge. If it was by human wisdom people entered heaven, think about how loud the founders would boast before God. Such thing cannot and will not happen. When those who believe in and accept the foolishness of the cross enter His presence it will be with the gratitude of worship and praise. They know their unworthiness and the Lord Jesus’ amazing grace.

The Logos of the cross requires faith, not wisdom. Why? Because faith is possible for the wisest to the most ignorant person to exercise. Faith stems from hearing the message, assessing its truth, realising personal need for forgiveness and mercy, accepting Christ’s offer of grace and surrendering to His Lordship. Then, a most amazing reality takes hold. Christ Jesus takes you out of sin’s dominance into righteousness. The believer is removed from the kingdom of Darkness and brought into the Kingdom of Light! The person is no longer a slum of self-righteousness or depravity but the temple of the risen Lord. No amount of human wisdom can ever achieve such a transformation!

How glad I am for the Logos of the cross and our Heavenly Father’s foolishness! Are you?

Next week: The Weakness of God.

©Ray Hawkins April 9th 2017.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Love's lifestyle

I once read where a gangster in America’s prohibition era inquired about becoming a Christian. When challenged to renounce his criminal lifestyle he baulked at such a thing. His reply, as I recall, was that he wanted to be known a Christian gangster.

In the mind of some is a similar misunderstanding of God’s grace in Christ. When Jesus summarised His lifestyle requirements as love for God and love for others. This seemed to be a charter for self-determination and indulgence. They could ‘love’ and God’s grace would still cover them. The mind of men and women is twisted, corrupt and seeks to be a god unto itself. To read the New Testament is to grasp the battles those responsible for discipleship faced. Writing to the church at Ephesus Paul called upon them to remember that to walk with the Lord required a walk different to the walk of the unconverted. For the unsaved have their understanding darkened and are alienated from the life of God within because of heart blindness (Ephesians 4:18). This form of living meant no boundaries, no moral code and a hardening of their sensitivities towards others. Then the apostle declares “You have not so learned [about] Christ [and His call on your life] Ephesians 4:20.

If there was ever an abused word in any language it must be ‘love!’ It is used to influence Christians into accepting such things as same-sex marriage, euthanasia and sexual practices specifically denounced in Scripture. For the proponents of such behaviours ‘love’ is the guidelines and the over-arching battering ram to make Christians agree - or else! Fortunately, God’s word cannot be changed! Fortunately, there are those who stand tall in defending it even at great personal cost. Fortunately, the majority of Bible reading and believing Christians decry the abuse of the word love and Scripture. Who knows how long before all followers of Christ will endure the ‘love’ of those who have darkened understanding, ignorant minds and blind hearts.

No one can say they love God and trample on His lifestyle calling. True, when we first turn to Him and enter into His grace and salvation there are many things of which we are unaware. He is very patient with us. However, God’s Holy Spirit will lead you out of ignorance into knowledge and then you become accountable. You cannot worship God and play in the Devil’s yard. You cannot say “I love Jesus” and commit murder. A person cannot bully or defame or hate then imagine God is pleased when that person takes the Lord's Supper. No-one can be a paedophile and kneel before God’s throne and talk about loving God. No one will be able to say “I love God” and yet rob Him of His glory, shred His word and cripple His Church’s testimony through immorality. No one! No one! No one!

A follower of Christ, whatever his or her status in life, has to come to grips with Christ’s definition of love. It is vastly different to that of the World’s religions or those without religion. New believers need to realise while we are free from the Mosaic Laws, Judgements and Statutes, we are actually under a higher calling. The Law of Christ, Love for His Father and for others, liberates the spirit and reigns in the soul. Sure there are times when we trip up and fall short. Yes, there are times when ignorance gives grief. Undoubtedly, the World, the Carnal nature and the Devil entice us into error. BUT! Love for the Christ of Calvary who gave His life on our behalf to redeem us won’t allow us to continue in that arena. His love for us has provided a way for our love of Him to escape the muck and murk of mistake, ignorance and stupidity. It is called repentance! It leads to a deeper gratitude. This in turn leads to a stronger devotion. This is fed by a craving to honour the Lord. When this envelopes us we want to understand and live out His Word. As that knowledge permeates then liberates, cleanses and dictates our lifestyle. In the midst of all this there is a realisation that love of God protects, enriches, empowers and propels the believer into a deep appreciation of His grace.

Lord, may my love for you colour my love for others according to your word. May I reach out to your love when I crash in my Christian life and grasp it through repentance! In the arena of my life when there is a cost to pay because of obedience to Christ’s word, please, let your l0ve to me shrink the cost into nothing but a nuisance and an opportunity to  share your love. Amen!

©Ray Hawkins April 2nd 2017.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

I want to break free

Port Arthur, Tasmania, convict era prison complex.
The music group Queen had a very popular song “I want to break free.” It expresses what many desire and few attain. To break free, as some have found, can cause more frustration, uncertainty and tears than their previous state. According to Jesus, to be free demands a special realm, a deliberate commitment and constant attention. He said that Truth will set you free! He claimed to be that realm when saying “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” in John 14:6. Therefore, it’s only in a committed faith relationship to and with Jesus that a person begins to understand what freedom is.

Why then the need for giving your faith relationship with Jesus constant attention? Because there are moral and spiritual forces opposed to Christ Jesus and His lifestyle for His followers. It is also necessary because something within our human nature has a sneaky way of abusing the grace of God and spoiling freedom’s realm. The wonder of our Lord’s mercy to us is the risk He takes for us to learn to live, learn and love in Freedom’s domain. By the ministry of the Holy Spirit we are led into a deeper and refining relationship with the Saviour. In walking in Truth according to His word we discover things about ourselves which needs forgiving, cleansing, refining, restoring, undertaking and achieving.

If only each of us was given the leisure and the peace to come to grips with all of the above. Each area is challenged by people and events, some good, some not good at all, meaning we need to know the Truth, apply the Truth, be guarded by the Truth. For this to be an ongoing reality requires the individual to take seriously Jesus’ direction as to where Truth resides. “Your word is Truth” Jesus declared in His prayer to God the Father (John 17:17). It is God’s Word which informs us of our need and points us to where that need is answered. However, we are required to correctly apply the Truth and not to dilute it or add our ‘ingredients and prejudices’ to it. Within the letters of the New Testament the writers, Paul, John, Peter, Jude, confront the ‘merchants of prejudice, poison and perversity.’

In the next couple of weeks we will endeavour to check out those who seek to rob a man or woman of his and her freedom in Christ. Some are well meaning. Some have evil intent. Some are simply na├»ve or ignorant of God word, grace and patience. Just briefly for today I would like to point out those who, in Paul’s words, want to put you back into bondage (Galatians 2:4). What he was furious about was the insidious way in which those who believed all should live under the Mosaic Law led people into error. They were trying to make Gentile believers in Christ surrender their freedom and to take upon themselves the yoke of the Law. That wasn’t merely the 10 Commandments but included the ceremonies, the judgements and statutes set out in Leviticus, Exodus and Deuteronomy.

The Law isn’t dead. But when we commit our lives to Christ Jesus we share in His death.
According to Romans 7:4 -7 we are dead to the Law and delivered from it. Does that mean we can do what we please? Hardly! For we have placed ourselves under the authority of Christ and receive His power to know and do His will. Another important passage has to deal with Christ as our High Priest. Those who place themselves under the bondage of the Law unconsciously (I believe) place themselves under the Aaronic Priesthood. In Hebrews 7:12 when Christ is our High Priest we experience a change of the Law. It is the realm of Grace and Truth, a much more liberating and at the same time very demanding realm. For in it we must ever be vigilant and assessing our inner and outer life under the searchlight of the Truth! Peter sums up the challenge in 2 Peter 3:18. We are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus. The Law may have led us to Christ (Galatians 4) but having done its work we enter a new realm of knowing Christ as the Truth and thereby being set free!

More next week.

©Ray Hawkins March 26th2017.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Christ's greatest challenger.

From a line-up of potential challengers to the Lord Jesus who would you choose as #1? Lucifer, Fame, Power, Sex and Money all are strong claimants. However, Jesus named just one of them as His greatest threat for the allegiance of individuals.

In Matthew 6:24 it is revealed as ‘Wealth’ (NRSV)! ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’

Christ’s words leave no wriggle room. History, Scripture and today’s media highlight the power, attraction and destructive power Mammon has over individuals, religious groups and corporations. When Mammon is life’s focal point it turns into a spiritual python whose embrace squeezes a person’s moral and life to death. As the Lord put it, Mammon will cause its devotee to despise God which takes him or her into hating God and His word.  Jesus also rankled the Pharisees with straight talking and parables about money Luke 12:13-21. 16:1-14. The first conflict in the fledgling church was due to Mammon’s embrace. Ananias and Sapphira tried to prove Christ’s words an empty threat and they became a tombstone testimony that what Jesus said is true (Acts5)!

Paul’s advice to Timothy which was to be passed onto those financially well off contained a warning and a challenge. 1 Timothy 6:10 is an unchanging truth ‘The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.’ The word for ‘eagerness’ is a picture of a person grasping after more and more of Mammon even though it is destroying health, family, friendships and faith. Prosperity preachers are breeding ‘pythons’ in their own lives and those who accept their teaching. The result is a wandering away and pierced with many pains!

There is a control mechanism presented in Scripture by which the Spirit of God uses to protect the life of a devoted disciple. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 uses such words as ‘set your hopes on God’, ‘Do good, [be] generous and ready to share’. The end result is ‘the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of life that really is life.’ I wonder if Paul was motivated to expand on what he had said in Acts 20:35 to the Ephesian elders, ‘The Lord Jesus…said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”’

The sorrow seen Mammon power dictating life’s priorities, relationships and friendships is deep and lasting. Friends cut asunder when a lottery is won but not shared. Testimonies shatters and churches wrecked because the collection was siphoned. How many relationships destroyed in bitter battles over dispersal of money from a deceased estate! The list can go on and on. Those countries whose leaders amass large amounts of money whilst their people starve and beg for help. Such leaders and others need to think on Matthew 16:26: ‘What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?’ An eternity of regret awaits. What is the good of having the largest bank balance when you are under a tombstone?

Jesus summed up His teaching on this matter with “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness…” It is this personal priority and accepting the cross of discipleship and stewardship will ‘Wealth’ be a servant not a god. The cross slays the ‘python’! A heart set on God’s kingdom keeps the heart focused.  It is better to be the widow of the two mites (Luke 21:2) unsung, unknown by any but Jesus than rich, religious and ruled by Mammon. To the rich whose focus in God’s rule and bear their cross, their wealth becomes a good work to meet the needy, suffering and afflicted. It is these acts of grace which honour to Christ, receive His commendation and become part of their treasure in Heaven!
Ray Hawkins March 19 2017.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

It's included in the price.

A young lass I knew was travelling on a plane and was invited to go from economy class to business class. The Stewards later asked her if she would like a drink, nibbles or something to eat during the flight. Imagining she had to pay for them and as she didn’t have any money, this young girl politely said “no thanks” even though she was extremely hungry and thirsty. What she didn’t know was the fact of merely being in that area meant what was offered was free. She hadn’t paid to go business class but had been permitted to join those already there. In a sense, she was participating in an act of grace. Ignorance of what that also included caused her to miss the treats.

I’ve thought about her experience and how it relates too many in their Christian life. When Jesus paid the price for our salvation included in it was every spiritual blessing and our eternal inheritance. He has invited us into a new realm and wants us to know and enjoy His grace. However, that requires each of us to find out the privileges, responsibilities and limitations of Christ’s realm of grace. This means we must avail ourselves of the ‘flight manual’ – the Scriptures. Being ignorant of what the Bible teaches impoverishes the spirit and prevents us from enjoying the journey.

We have not because we have not asked. We may not receive because we ask for the wrong thing. My young friend could have asked for alcohol but would have been refused, not because the Stewards would be unkind. Refusal would have been because of her age. I imagine that when the Holy Spirit politely refuses our requests it is for reasons of our welfare and protection.

Remember, ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him’ 2 Peter 1:3. We are prone to latch onto the ‘life’ and ignore, or treat lightly the next key word, ‘godliness’. In a sordid world which tries to ‘gate-crash’ my life, your life, and relationships, I find godliness a constant challenge. However, I need not collapse under the sordid weight of impurity ‘thrown’ at me. What is my protection? The power Christ supplies. Trouble is, that power must be allowed to flow. Where do we tap into its flow? In the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour. Where do we find that knowledge? In the Bible! But the knowing implies the allowing of it to have free access to and through our mind, heart and actions.

Ignorance of God’s word isn’t bliss, it is bondage. For when we trip-up in our Christian life we don’t understand our need for repentance and restitution and God’s grace. It is also self-destructive to our joy in service, worship and fellowship as our self-nature dominates and not the standard of the Lord. Without a growing appreciation and understanding of our standing with and in Christ Jesus we will be blown around and over by false teachings and emotionalism. Without a devotion to Jesus Christ that is enriched by being taught His word we cannot be blessed.

This is why the Bible is so merciless in its warning to and condemnation of false teachers, false prophets and false pastors. They are robbers of God’s blessing to His people. They muddy the clear spring of the Water of life promised in and with the Holy Spirit. They violate the character and integrity of God by their misrepresentation and inaccurate interpretation of the plain teaching of God’s text. James 3:1 makes this threat: ‘Not many of you should become teachers … for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.’ Jesus goes even further in His warning to those intent on self -adulation and deliberate falsification of God’s word. “I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evil doers.’

May each of us grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!