Sunday, February 25, 2018

Concluding 'This I know...my assurance.


Following on from last week I share my final testimony to Christ’s faithfulness and my, indeed our great hope. I’ve taken Paul’s quote in 2 Timothy 1:12 to explain my experience and trust in His grace. Last week I finished the blog with ‘He is able’. That begs the question ‘to do what?’ 

To keep that which I’ve committed: Whilst this is true the passage actually speaks of what He has committed to Paul, and to us. That sacred trust, the gospel commission was given to men and women best described at pottery vessels. In their own strength they would be unable to endure what was to come upon them. Paul’s testimony at the end of a faithful and turbulent missionary life is here. God is able to keep, safeguard, fresh constantly and watch over what He has entrusted to His people.

What a relief. With all my heart I want to be found faithful. With all my strength I want to succeed. With an understanding of ‘me’ I know that I am not able to do that! Words from a favourite hymn says it all ‘without Him I can do nothing, without Him I’ll surely fail…’ When I bow before my Lord and Saviour the fact of my being in His presence is due simply, solely to Him and His faithfulness and power.

Unto Him against that day: What day? The most obvious choice would be His second coming. When that happens our being ‘in Him’ and with Him is our security. I wonder however, if ‘that day’ could also be applied to the day of our death? Paul was in hourly expectation of being martyred. When that time arrived Christ’s role as the Good Shepherd would come into play. He would walk with His servant through the valley of the shadow of death and into the presence of the Father.

That too is my comfort. I look forward to the return of Christ Jesus to rule, to judge, to bring on righteousness. I realise that it is more likely that there will be some form of funeral service for me. I do not look forward to my dying, although I have prepared for it. What I do look forward to is knowing the promise of Scripture, I shall see Him face to face.

So, in this my final blogspot, can I ask you, “Do you know Jesus the Christ as your
personal saviour and Lord? Do you have the knowledge of His grace and forgiveness? Are you assured, on the authority of His word, that you will see Him when your life is over?
 
'What does it (The Scriptures Jesus used) say? "The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart." (that is, the word  of faith that we proclaim.); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says,  "No one who believes in Him will be ashamed." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on Him. For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:8-13.
 
Don't delay. Give the Lord your call now. For today, right now is the day of salvation. Make it your day!

©Ray Hawkins February 18 and 25, 2018.
Shalom!

 

 

 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

This I know...


It is time for me to finish my blog postings. I have appreciated the opportunity of sharing my heart, mind and faith with you these past few years. But with the unknown length of time I have ahead of me (I’m not sick, just ageing) I want to pursue some other things.

This, my final sharing with you will be done in two parts. I am using a verse from Paul’s letter to Timothy as the basis of the blog. What Paul wrote expresses my heartfelt gratitude to Jesus Christ and my confidence in Him. The verse is… I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. ( 2 Timothy 1:12.)

I know: There was a time when I didn’t know Jesus in a personal way. I knew about Him. I was impressed by the stories written but Jesus was a stranger, aloof and distant. That changed one day on the footpath outside the Rockdale church of Christ (New South Wales, Australia). It was after the Sunday church service and I knew in my inner being the Lord was dealing with me.

He wanted to know me. This meant I had to know Him! It was a relationship founded upon His invitation and my faith response.  That was sixty years ago.

In whom: Could I have been imagining what I heard within? That was possible but as they say ‘the proof is in the eating.’ The reality of that moment has been proven countless times, and tested more times than I care to remember. Jesus invited me to know Him, not merely to hear about Him or see Him as a noble stranger, but to know Him. This meant He must be my Saviour, Lord, Master, and friend. How was I to grow this relationship? Through knowing His word, being involved in worship of and fellowship with Him. That means sharing with His people. Something strange began to take shape. A new ‘me’ emerged. Hypocrisy slid away. Ignorance was replaced by His word. Faith grew as it confronted the doubts and insinuations which developed.

I have believed. Some will wonder how I, or anyone, can have a personal relationship with Christ. For He is unseen and dwells in the spiritual realm. That is similar to saying a blind person cannot enjoy the warmth of the sun or the freshness of the wind. At first it is hard to define but once experienced, built upon, tested and even neglected for a period (which has its own sense of sorrow), you know the relationship is real.
What do I believe about Jesus?
 Time and space are too limited for an adequate reply. Suffice to write that across sixty years and a church based ministry spanning over fifty years I have found Him faithful. Jesus is faithful to His Word. He is faithful to His name and titles. He is faithful to His personal promises to people such as you and I. Jesus promised never to leave or forsake those who trust in Him. But, what is His reaction to the times I have smeared my calling, broken His trust, played on the edge of the darkness, grieved His Spirit or doubted His
grace? Discipline falls, but not divorce. Pruning is applied, not removal from His presence. Silence falls, but not separation. His intentions are to bring me to repentance, to an awareness of my stupidity that generates a heartfelt cry for His mercy, forgiveness and cleansing. The unseen scars on my soul are evidences before the angels, the demons and my conscience, Jesus is my Lord, Saviour and healer! He is faithful and His power liberating.

And am persuaded: Certain memorials were erected by Israel as a testimony to some act of God on His people’s behalf. They expressed the nation or the individual’s intention of wanting to honour the Lord. What observers thought of those cairns is not the issue. I have certain unshakeable events in my life which makes me bow in adoration and gratitude before Him.
Without explanation I list: being accepted into Bible College; meeting my future wife,
Mary. Having the Lord confirm to us separately and indelibly His will to marry. Guiding and providing for us in our self-supporting church planting ventures. Mission trips to Africa. Purchase of a house. The gift of writing books.

Atheists may laugh, philosophers may scratch their heads and readers may put it down to luck. But ‘I know!’

That He is able: After walking with Him hand in hand with Mary we have emerged with a confidence in our Lord’s strength. That word ‘able’ is the word for power, ‘dunamis’. This power is evident in the Gospel for it lifts a person out of eternal death into eternal life. The cross displays Christ’s power to anyone who believes in the crucified and risen Lord. It is His power (1 Peter1:5) which alone can keep us safe and secure. We are unable to save ourselves, nor keep ourselves saved. Christ alone has that ‘dunamis’. He alone is our boast. 

To be concluded next week
©Ray Hawkins February 18th 2018.

 


Sunday, February 11, 2018

God's biggest problem.


The greatest problem God has is me! And you! Even the Devil has to work overtime to get us to play ‘ball’ with him. Why is this? Because of what he, as the serpent, offered to Adam through Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Humanity has believed the lie and imagines itself as ‘god.’

There have been numerous rulers claiming this title, Pharaoh being top of the list and the Roman Caesars next. But there is a little of this lie running loose in us all, even when we become disciples of Christ. Such twisted thinking is infused into our nature. We want our own way! We debate with God about matters recorded in His word. Most of our relationship battles can be viewed from the perspective of ‘a battle between the gods.’

When Paul wrote the Galatian letter this underlying problem is the cause of so much personal conflict and interpersonal battles. Why? Because the ‘Sarx’ (human nature) wants its own way despite what God, wisdom or anybody else says. This relates to morality, spirituality, personal and godly integrity. So much sadness and destructive behaviour flows from out of our addiction to obeying our ‘Sarx.’

It has taken all the resources of God, supplied to those who claim Jesus as Lord and Saviour, to deal with our notion of self-rule. As Jesus said ‘Why call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say’ (Luke 6:46). We cannot pick and choose what we will or will not do when Jesus has ruled on a matter. There isn’t any way we can have fellowship with our Lord if we walk contrary to His expressed will. That is the basis for most of a Christian’s poor witness, sense of estrangement and loss of joy in their worship and faith.

How we treat other people, whether believers or not, impacts upon the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. His grieves and is prevented from fulfilling His ministry within us and through us (Ephesians 4:30). We release Him from this grief when we put things right, humble ourselves and begin walking in agreement with God and His word.

There is a tendency to imagine we can do something for God and earn some bonus points. Trouble is, whatever stems from our Sarx, our self-will, is anathema to God (Romans 8:8). What comes from our Ego and not God’s initiative, stated will or command will not stand in His presence (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). A good example of this is found in Luke 21:1-4. There the difference between a widow’s 2 mites and the rich person’s abundance as a gift to God is highlighted. They did it for show. She did it as unto the Lord.

In Galatians Paul makes a distinction between what flows from our Human Nature and our born again spirit. One is a works program. The other is the fruit of a faith relationship. Our Ego is infected with the ‘Georgie Porgy’ syndrome, ‘what a good boy am I.’ When you consider the fruit of the spirit it is evident that we are unable to make ‘fruit.’ Also, you will notice that fruit isn’t for the ‘tree’s’ benefit. It is for those in need of being fed by such life enriching food. We can fall into the misguided notion that the fruit is for our consumption. No! It is God’s desire that you are His ‘tree’ to feed those in need of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith meekness, and self-control.

How then are we to be saved from our ‘god syndrome?’ By identifying with Christ and the cross. To deliberately say ‘not my will but yours, Lord’ and choose to obey His word is our safeguard and deliverance. That allows us to walk in step with Christ Jesus and know His joy and companionship. By the grace of God we can be called ‘sons and daughters of the Most high.’ That, however, crushes our independent assessment of our ‘god-ness’ because there can ever only be one God.

Forgive me for those times when I have grieved you, my Lord and my God. Rivet my heart and mind to the cross of Calvary so that I do not forget I’m a sinner saved by grace. Weigh my heart down with this awesome truth so that my walk with you will be with the vibrancy of your joy. Lord, look on me and smile I pray. Amen!

Next week will be a two-part finale. The time has come to exit cyberspace and engage in some other enterprise. My finale is 'This I know...!' and as indicated above will be in two sections.
Hope you will look into it. Thanks.

©Ray Hawkins 11 Feb. 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Look beyond appearances.


What do you see,
When you look at me
Confined though I be
Through age and frailty?

            Look beyond my decrepit form.
            Despise not my senility.
            Peer beneath my wrinkled brow,
                                                                    Discover my true identity.

 A passer-by sees but ‘the outer’
Unaware of the real ‘inner’.
Hidden within are many stories
Of love, loss, faith and glory,
Friendships, family, history,
All which moulded me
Though they, you will not see,
Made me, me!

            To see only my frailty
            Cheapens my humanity.
            If un-mendable,
            I’m expendable,

Come, ask me about my history.
Listen as I share my journey
Of difficult turbulent years,
Upheaval too, but triumph’s tears
And joys shared with my peers.
We had community, we belonged!
Life was tough, friendships strong,
Things for which I do so long.

            Now our importunity
            Is your opportunity
            To give us dignity
            In compassion’s sincerity

 You, like I, must walk from youth to age
Each step you’ll write upon life’s page,
Face it with faith in the God who cares.
Through His word, in times of despair,
Find wisdom and hope so as to endure,
And by His grace stand ‘true blue’ and pure
So when your life’s race and battles end
You’ll be received by the Lord as His friend.

For Christ‘s promise to you, me,
Because of the cross of Calvary
And His resurrection victory,
We can share in His eternity.  

 ©Ray Hawkins Feb.1 2018

 

 

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.

References.
 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'.