Christianity and Society, Sound Teaching

Christ Presbyterian Church coming soon to Blantyre, Malawi

 

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“Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth…For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:7, 9).

I am excited to begin the work of planting Christ Presbyterian Church (CPC) soon, Lord willing. My family, friends, and I have been praying for this work for so many years and we praise the Lord that he is now establishing it. We will  start with a Bible study in September 2019. We have a few families that will form the core group of our study. We are praying for more to be added.

We also have three pastoral interns that will be joining us. We desire to invest in these young men and prepare them for pastoral ministry in the coming years. One of CPC’s major goals will be  to see more confessional churches planted across Malawi. We trust that the Lord will use these interns to help us accomplish our goal.

Looking ahead the following are major events coming up:

  • June 2019: My family and I attend a church-planting training in Europe.
  • July 2019: We arrive in Malawi.
  • September 2019: Our interns begin their pastoral internship.
  • September 2019: We begin to meet and study the book of Ephesians in our home.

So may we ask you to pray for us. Also if you have friends in Blantyre let them  know that CPC is starting soon. If you would like to know more or attend our Bible study do not hesitate to contact me or visit our website http://www.christchurchmalawi.org

 

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Sound Teaching

The Intercession of Christ

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 23 asks: “What offices does Christ execute as our Redeemer?” Answer: “Christ, as our Redeemer, executes the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both his estate of humiliation and exaltation.” Then in the following questions and answers the catechism explains that Christ as prophet he reveals God’s will for our salvation. As king he defends and protects us, and as priest he offered himself for the sins of his people and he continually intercedes for them.

In Hebrews 7:25 we perfectly see the office of Christ as priest. We are told that Christ intercedes for his people. But before we can look at these two points, we need to have a right view of Christ’s intercession. How does Christ intercede for his people? I believe John Calvin best answers this question. He says, “We are not to measure this intercession by our carnal judgment, for we must not think of Him as humbly supplicating the Father on bended knee and with outstretched hands. Christ however, is justly said to intercede for us, because He appears continually before the Father.” The intercession of Christ is his continual presence at the right hand of his Father.

Now the author of Hebrews 7:25 tells us two important things about this intercession: it is unfailing (he is able to save to uttermost) and unceasing (he always lives to make intercession). The intercession of ChrisT is unfailing because God the Father can never reject any of Christ’s prayers since Jesus’ prayers are always according to the will of the Father. It is also unceasing because Christ can never grow weary in interceding for his people. We sometimes grow weary in prayer, but that cannot be said of Christ. He lives to make intercession for his people.

So, due to Christ’s unfailing and unceasing intercession, all believers are assured that their faith will not fail. They will remain standing in Christ until the day he will call them to enter into his glory or when he shall come to this world in glory. This is why Paul states that he is confident that the one who has begun good work in us will also bring it to completion (Phil 1:6).

Peter’s life is a good proof  of this truth. On the night that Christ was betrayed, he said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”” (Luke 22:31). But Peter promised never to forsake Christ.

It did not take long for Peter to realize that Christ was right. Peter denied Christ three times. Then the Lord looked at him and he was convicted. He went out and wept bitterly probably repenting of his sin. But the story does not end there. Some days later after Christ’s resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter by the shores of Sea of Tiberias. Christ restored Peter and commanded him, “Feed my sheep,” (John 21). That prayer he prayed for Peter never failed.

The unceasing and unfailing intercession of Christ is the hope for every believer. This is why when Apostle Paul is discussing the intercession of Christ in Romans 8, he also emphatically states that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

 

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Christianity and theology, Sound Teaching

Biblical Prophets Vs. Today’s Prophets

A couple of days ago, the social media was awash with a prophecy coming from the West Africa, Nigeria in particular. The so-called Prophet TB Joshua predicted the outcome of USA 2016 Elections. He stated that a female candidate would win. This was a reference to Hilary Clinton. However, come early this morning, the “prophecy” has proved to be another false prediction.

Now this is not the first time that prophets in my beautiful and beloved continent have predicted falsely. They are a number of instances that can be cited, but that is beside the point of this post. I am writing mainly to express my concern over some people’s unhealthy fascination with prophets.

Prophets have become so popular in Africa that they are regarded as semi-gods, which is certainly against the Second Commandment. Prophets have also become the elite and one of rich groups of people, monetary wise, at the expense of their poor followers. But this is very different from the picture we see of Biblical prophets both in the Old and New Testament.

The Biblical prophets were often unpopular. Their message was very offensive to those rebelling against God. The Biblical prophets were not crowd-pullers as our “prophets” today. They were not business magnets as the prophets our time. When one was called to be a prophet in the Bible, it often meant putting your life in the harm’s way.

While it was not all glamour and glitter for the Biblical prophets, it’s all a bed of roses for the contemporary “prophets.” The biographies of modern “prophets” stand in sharp contrast to the biographies of Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and John the Baptist just to mention a few examples.

Looking at this fact, one thing is certain: the prophets like those in the Bible no longer exist. Without repeating what I have stated again and again, the ultimate fulfiment of the office of Biblical prophets is found in Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus Christ is the Prophet par excellence. He is the only prophet we need today. In fact, he is not only the Prophet but also the Priest and King forever.

Now back to the prophecy of TB Joshua. His so-called prophecy should bring to mind Deuteronomy 18:20-22:

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’  And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’ when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

Now we know how we should respond to TB Joshua and all the so-called prophets.

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Sound Teaching

Preach the Whole Counsel of God

I have been reading Charles Bridges’ The Christian Ministry and this quote which he also borrows from another preacher by the name of Bishop Horsley touched and blessed my heart and thought of sharing it with you:

Pray earnestly to God to assist the ministration of the word, by secret influence of the Holy Spirit in the minds of your hearers: and nothing doubting that your prayers are heard, however, mean and illiterate the congregation may be, in which you exercise your sacred functions, fear not to set before them the whole counsel of God. Open the whole of your message without reservation, that every one of you may have confidence to say, when he shall be called upon to give an account of his stewardship – “Lord, I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and truth from the great congregation.”

This is my prayer for myself and all my brothers who have been called by God to preach the gospel.

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Sound Teaching

The Power of the Gospel

“Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction” ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:5

What does Paul mean when he says “the gospel came not only in word but also in power.” Some have said that the word “power” here refers to miracles since the preaching of the apostles in the First Century and at the beginning of Christianity was accompanied by miracles and wonders as a means of authenticating their true apostleship. This is very possible.

However, I also believe that Paul is talking of a special power that a Christian or a person who hears God’s word experiences as the Holy Spirit is applying the word. I believe it is the special power, which among others things brings conviction of sin and also assurance of salvation.

It is the power that Cleopas and his friend experienced when Christ spoke the word of God to them. Do you remember their words regarding their experience as they heard the word of God from Jesus in Luke 24:32? “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” I believe it is this power that the apostle is speaking of in this verse.

It is also the power that we read of when Paul preached to Felix in Acts 24. In Acts 24:25 we read that when Felix heard the gospel being preached to him, he trembled.

All of us who have sat under the preaching of the gospel have experienced this power. But sadly, some like Felix when they hear God’s word, they  tremble but still harden their hearts and don’t believe. But others like  Cleopas and his friend believe and surrender to the power of God’s word.

Which of these two examples describes you well, my friend?  Is it the one of Felix who after he heard the gospel said to Paul, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” Or that of Cleopas and his friend who believed the word of God and returned to the other disciples of Jesus to share what Christ had done and said to them?

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Sound Teaching

Beware of False Prophets

I believe John Calvin has a better commentary on these words of Christ than I could ever pen down.  Therefore, I will let him speak.

“But beware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15).  These words were intended to teach, that the Church would be exposed to various (impostors), and that consequently many would be in danger of falling from the faith, if they were not carefully on their guard. We know what a strong inclination men have towards falsehood, so that they not only have a natural desire to be deceived, but each individual appears to be ingenious in deceiving himself.

Satan, who is a wonderful contriver of delusions, is constantly laying snares to entrap ignorant and heedless persons. (Jesus) therefore warns his disciples that, if they desire to persevere (in the faith), they must prepare themselves to avoid the snares of Satan. It is the will of the Lord, (as has been already said,) that his Church shall be engaged in uninterrupted war in this world. That we may continue to be his disciples to the end, it is not enough that we are merely submissive, and allow ourselves to be governed by his Word. Our faith, which is constantly attacked by Satan, must be prepared to resist.

It is of the greatest consequence, undoubtedly, that we should let ourselves to be directed by good and faithful ministers of Christ: but as false teachers, on the other hand, make their appearance, if we do not carefully watch, and if we are not fortified by perseverance, we shall be easily carried off from the flock. To this purpose also is that saying of Christ: “The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd; and a stranger. They do not follow, but flee from him,” (John 10:3, 5)

Hence too we conclude, that there is no reason why believers should be discouraged or alarmed, when wolves creep into the fold of Christ, when false prophets endeavor to corrupt the purity of the faith by false doctrines. They ought rather to be aroused to keep watch: for it is not without reason that Christ enjoins them to be on their guard. Provided that we are not led astray through our own sluggishness, we shall be able to avoid every kind of snares; and, indeed, without this confidence, we would not have the courage necessary for being on our guard.

Now that we know that the Lord will not fail to perform his promises, whatever may be the attacks of Satan, let us go boldly to the Lord, asking from him the Spirit of wisdom, by whose influences he not only seals on our hearts the belief of his truth, but exposes the tricks and impositions of Satan, that we may not be deceived by them. When Christ says, that they come to us in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves, his meaning is, that they (will seem to be true), if prudence be not exercised in subjecting them to a thorough examination” ~ John Calvin (July 10, 1509 to May 27, 1564)

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Sound Teaching

A Tale of an Agony of Prosperity “Gospel”

A few days ago I received a letter from an old friend. We first met in secondary school and one thing that brought us together was our religion then, Rastafarianism. However, the Lord was gracious to both of us. The Lord saved my friend a year before he saved me. After our secondary days, we parted ways and never knew what was going in each other’s life until recently when my friend through his brother traced me and sent me this letter. When I finished reading it, I was angry but also sorrowful at the reality of the agony that prosperity “gospel” is bringing to many in my motherland, Malawi.

Dear friend,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It has been a long time…Time really flies. But memories are still fresh of us eating chiwaya pa Bright pa break. Kale lokoma ndi losayiwalika (during break time we used to go and have pieces of fried potatoes commonly called chips at a place owned by a man simply known as Bright).

Anyway, the main reason for writing this letter is to share with you what has happened in my life. Probably, you heard that I was arrested and charged with three accounts: abuse of office, corruption and theft by public servant. As I am writing now I am in one of the prisons in our country waiting for trial. For you own information, I will plead guilty to all these charges because I am indeed guilty, and I don’t intend to contest against them when my trial begins.

It all started that time when the Lord saved me. I began to go to this other church where our pastor always preached about prosperity gospel. Again and again, he emphasized that God’s will for us is that we should enjoy His blessings to the full. We should have better jobs or own big businesses, big and beautiful houses, and very expensive cars among other blessings from the Lord. The verses he often cited were 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” and 3 John 2 “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”

We believed and incessantly absorbed this “truth.” He challenged us to pray and claim these blessings for ourselves in Jesus name. Indeed it seemed to work. Many of my friends began to do well. They secured better- paying jobs. Some started business which within a few years were growing and thriving wonderfully. But it was not so with me. I prayed and fasted but things didn’t seem to work. I approached my pastor a number of times and asked him why I was not prospering like my friends. He replied and said that that my faith was weak. He challenged me to fast more and pray more. He also observed that I was probably not faithful in my giving to the church.

“You cannot have God’s blessings if you do not sow faithfully and abundantly,” he challenged me.

Friend, from that time onwards, I prayed harder and fasted even more. I remember one time, I took a one-week leave from my organization to go to a mountain to fast and pray for three days also called Esther’s fasting. That month and the following months, I took almost half of my salary and gave it as “tithe” to the man of God. I sowed the seed faithfully and waited for the harvest but to my surprise no single blessing came.
Every Sunday when I went to church I felt like a failure as I listened to my friends giving testimonies of how God was blessing them. I felt that I was not a true Christian since most of my friends were driving nice cars, but I was still walking to church.

“You are of little faith, my brother. Put your faith into action. Trust the Lord more and give more and he will bless you,” my pastor challenged me again after I poured out my frustrations to him.

The pressure to appear that I was also receiving blessings from the Lord was huge on me. In no time, I started getting involved in various malpractices at my work place. As my job involved handling finances I started swindling my organization. It all began with small amounts and after noticing that I was able to get away with it, I stepped on the accelerator even harder. Soon, I was driving a nice car and started building a mansion in one of the city suburbs.

My pastor was very happy with me. I remember meeting him one Sunday after service when I had just given a lot of money to the church as my tithe and he said, “You see now…your faith has grown and you have sown the seed faithfully. The blessings are now pouring. The Lord has showed me that this tap of blessings will continue to flow and never dry because you are faithful.”
I was very happy, even though deep down my heart I wondered, “Can’t this man of God tell what is happening behind the scenes for me to have these blessings?”

My church friends who were shunning me before because I was not doing better financially finally began to befriend me again. We called ourselves “Sons of the Wonderful and Answering God (SWAG).” There was literally competition among us as we aimed at outdoing each other in “God’s blessings.” I continued to defraud my organization so that I could be on top of SWAG. Almost every Sunday, the man of God gave me the pulpit to share the testimony of God’s blessings in my life.

So, all was well until last year when the cat went out of the bag and all the skeletons in my closet were exposed. I was arrested and charged as I have already mentioned. Anyway, to cut the long story short, I have been in this prison for over eight months now because I was denied bail. My pastor is no where to be seen. He has never visited me. All my property was seized by the authorities and my bank accounts were frozen. Every day, I cry for my wife and my two beautiful little daughters. I have put them in a great predicament all because of my sin and the so called prosperity gospel.

Now, you may wonder why after this long time my first letter should be of this sort. Well, I have heard that you are studying for ministry. Please my brother, if God wills that you become a preacher of the gospel make sure that you preach the gospel of Christ alone. You should know that preachers have great influence on their members; therefore, please, please, use this God-given influence to lead your members to Christ and not to false hood and selfish ambitions.

Lastly, please remember me and my family in your prayers. I have repented of my sin and I believe Christ has forgiven me, but I am ready to face the consequences of my sin which might be spending a number of years in this prison.

Greetings to your family.

Your old-friend in Christ,

JK.

 

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Sound Teaching

Meditations Toward Christmas: Deuteronomy 18:15

Another passage worthy of our meditation during this Christmas season is Deuteronomy 18:15: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen”

A prophet, according to the Bible, is the one who speaks on behalf of God to his people. Moses was one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, and as his life approached to an end, he foretold of a greater prophet to come. The Bible does not leave us to guess as to who Moses was referring to because Apostle Peter in Acts 4:22 tells us that Moses was speaking of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is greater than Moses and all other prophets because he does not merely speak on behalf of God, but he himself is God. The author of Hebrews also emphasizes this truth and writes, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power,” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Unlike the other prophets whose word had authority because God had sent them to speak, Christ speaks with his own authority. This why the other prophets had always to say, “Thus says the Lord…” while Christ says, “I say to you…” because he is the prophet per excellence.

Now this greater prophet came to us on Christmas day, and he called everyone to believe his word for salvation. The same call still stands today, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life,” (John 5:24).

Jesus Christ’s words show us that there is no middle ground. Believing the word of this prophet leads to life and rejecting it leads to death. May our celebration of the birth of this prophet also afford us time to reflect on which ground we stand.

“A little child, thou art our guest
That weary ones in thee may rest
Forlorn and lowly is thy birth
That we may rise to heav’n from earth” (Martin Luther)

Blessed Christmas!

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Meditations Toward Christmas: Genesis 12:1-3

Another Old Testament passages that points us to the coming or birth of Christ is Genesis 12:1-3: “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”

In this passage God promises to bless Abraham. The Lord also promises to bless the families of the earth through Abraham. There is no better commentary to this passage that the Bible itself. In Galatians 3:16, Apostle Paul looks back at this passage and writes, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.”

God’s promise to bless all the families of the earth was ultimately fulfilled through his offspring, Jesus Christ. Today many families of earth have been blessed through Christ. Families that were once not a people, but now are God’s people; once they had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy (1 Peter 2:10).

Today, every nation, race or tribe has people calling upon the name of Christ. John confirms this truth in his vision of heaven. “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,” (Revelation 7:9).

This is the real meaning of Christmas namely that in Christ God is pouring out his rich blessings of justification (forgiveness of our sin and declaring us righteous in Christ) and sanctification (transforming us more and more in holiness after Christ). These blessings will climax in our glorification in which we shall be completely like Christ without sin, and we shall live with him in glory eternally. What a blessing!

For sure the hymn writer was right when he penned:

Ponder nothing earthly-minded
For with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descend
King of kings, yet born of Mary…
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly glory.

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Meditations Toward Christmas: Genesis 3:15

In a few days’ time, the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas. Christ’s birth is worthy celebrating because it marked God’s coming down to dwell with his people ( as his name, Immanuel, means) and to save them from their sin ( as his name, Jesus, means). Therefore, as we move toward Christmas, God willing, I would like us to reflect and meditate on a number of passages from the Old Testament that point us to the birth of Christ. I pray that these passages will help us celebrate the season meaningfully and with gratitude for God’s indescribable gift to us ( 2 Corinthians 9:15).

The first passage is Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

At the completion of creation in Genesis 1 and 2, God saw that everything was good. Man was also God’s best friend, and he enjoyed uninterrupted communion with his Creator. But in Genesis 3 we see the entry of sin,evil and death in a once good world. Man being deceived by the evil one sinks to his lowest end. He sinks deep in a quagmire of sin, misery, and shame.

Due to sin, man is alienated from God.  Once a friend of God, man now hides himself from his best friend. Man is also alienated even from his fellow man. Adam and Eve no longer enjoy the sweet companionship of husband and wife. Hear the words of Adam describing his wife whom he once called the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh, “The woman whom you gave to be with me…” He doesn’t call her his wife. Sin does not only alienate us from God but also from our fellow man.

God being just and righteous comes in judgment upon man. To Adam he says, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, you shall not eat from it; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19).

To Eve he says, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

But that’s not the end of the story. God also being gracious and merciful announces salvation and redemption for man as he condemns the evil one: “I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The good news or the gospel comes in a form of enmity. It is important that God re-establishes this enmity because before sinning, man was a friend of God and enemy of the evil one. But when he sinned, he became a friend of the evil one and enemy of God. Therefore, God re-establishes this enmity as his gracious means of reconciling man to himself. What a gracious LORD. What an amazing love!

The seed of the woman ultimately refers to Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who crushed the head of the serpent (Romans 16:20; John 12:31, 32; Colossians 2:15) triumphing over him in victory. This victory began with God’s promise coming true on the day of Christ’s birth.

Therefore, Genesis 3:15 forms the backbone of our rejoicing on Christmas. The promised seed is finally here to crush the head of the serpent and give us life. Charles Wesley hit the nail right on the head when he composed:

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us…
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever.

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