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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Christianity and Society

The King Who Can Always be Trusted

 

Today, Malawians have voted for the president, members of parliament, and councilors who will lead and govern our country for the next five years. This hopefully brings to an end the campaign period. As this period sinks into the annals of our republic’s history, one thing it has revealed or confirmed is that we all long for something better than what we are currently experiencing. All candidates who campaigned had one common message: making Malawians’ lives better and more satisfying.

Now this should not come as a surprise. It is part of us being created in the image of God. We long for justice because God is just. We desire to see all people treated equally and with dignity irrespective of their tribes or regions they come from because God created all people equal and he is no respecter of persons. We hope to see nothing but truth in government because God is the truth. We hate to see corruption in the government because there is no tiny grain of corruption in God. So when politicians promise us these things, we get excited and hopeful because that is exactly what the image of God in us longs for.

But here is the bad news. No person in this world will be able to satisfy our longing for justice, truth, fairness, dignity etc. Many can promise but none will deliver. This is why we should never look to the arm of flesh to grant what only God in his Son, Jesus Christ, can give. Only Christ can truly satisfy our hunger for justice and truth (Isaiah 55:1-2; Matt. 11:28-30). The great African theologian, St. Augustine was right “O God you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.”

By this I don’t imply that human governments do not matter or that Christians should ignore their civic duties. No! It is God who establishes governments and kingdoms. He calls us to submit, honor, and pray for our leaders (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-3). But God never points us to our leaders as sources of satisfaction or meaning. Instead, he points us to his Son. Therefore, we should not be shocked if it happens that those we have trusted and voted today with the hope of making Malawi better dash our hopes into pieces soon. They are the arm of flesh and as prophet Jeremiah warns us: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD” (17:5).

Thus let’s pray and support the leaders we have voted for as they seek to improve the lives of Malawians, but let’s be careful not to lean on their arm of flesh. There is only one King who can be trusted unreservedly and always, the King Jesus.

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Christianity and theology, Uncategorized

Christmas Reflections: God’s Gracious Choice of Mary

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.  And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus,”(Luke 1:26-31).

Why did God choose Mary to be the mother of Christ? What did God see in Mary that moved him to choose her to be God-bearer? The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) responds and says that by God’s grace Mary was born sinless that is why she was chosen by God. RCC calls this the doctrine of Immaculate Conception. However, basing on the evidence of Scripture we see that there was nothing so special with Mary. Mary did nothing to deserve the honor of bringing Christ into this world. It was purely God’s gracious choice. Consider the following:

First, Mary as a descendant of Adam was a sinner just like every one else born in this world (Romans 5:12). In fact just like Jesus’ great grandfather, David, Mary was also brought forth in iniquity and in sin did her mother conceive her (Psalm 51:5).

Second, Mary was from a poor background. In her song of praise also known as the Magnificat recorded for us in Luke 2:46-55, she confesses of her humble estate and says: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant” (46, 47). Later she adds, “For he who is might has done great things for me…he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate (49, 52).

John Calvin comment on these verses observes, “This was not the loud cry of a pretended humility, but the plain and honest statement of that conviction which was engraven on her mind; for she was of no account in the eyes of the world, and her estimation of herself was nothing more.”

Third, Mary was from a very little known village of Nazareth.  She was neither from the capital of Israel nor any of its big cities. The insignificant village of Nazareth was not even mentioned in the Old Testament or other Jewish literature of that time. It is also believed that it was a popular saying in those days in Israel to ask the rhetoric question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Yet it is to this obscure village, which nobody expected anything good to come out of that God went for the choice of the mother of his incarnate Son.

Mary’s story resembles the story of our salvation. God chose to save us through Christ not because he saw anything special in us to move him to act in our favor. Apostle Paul reminds us: “For consider your calling, brothers (and sisters): not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,” (1 Cor. 1:26-30).

This, friends, is the heart of Christmas. God “tabernacled” with us not because we were lovely, righteous or friendly. To the contrary, God came to dwell with us despite being lowly, sinful, and with rebellious hearts. He came to save us from our most pitiful and hopeless state and to enable us sit with him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). Praise the Lord for his gracious and sovereign choice!

 

 

 

 

 

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Christianity and Society

The Agony of Prosperity Gospel: “It is Less About God and More About Feeling Good.”

Photo credit: Enrichment Journal

A recent research by the University of Toronto’s department of psychology  in the Faculty of Arts & Science has found out that exposure to prosperity gospel (PG) makes you more likely to show an exaggerated and unrealistic sense of optimism for life and take more financial risks.

In the press release about the findings of the research, the study’s lead author, Nick Hobson, Ph. D. makes this important observation, “Its (prosperity gospel’s) success as a growing religious movement might be less about feeling (sic) God, and more about feeling good.”

Now this is very interesting especially that it is coming from a non-Christian institution. Here Hobson has put his finger on it and it should not surprise us because that’s exactly what the Bible teaches.  PG is not the gospel. There is only one gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified. The PG is neither about nor for Christ but actually against Christ. This is why Apostle Paul anathematizes anyone who preaches it: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said it before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8, 9).

Further as the research notes, PG is about manipulating people through their volatile emotions rather than pointing them to their greatest need of salvation in Christ. Apostle Peter already warned us against the destructive nature of PG.  Writing of devious and false teachers who include PG preachers the apostle cautioned: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you…And in their greed they will exploit you (“make merchandize of you,” KJV) with false words” (2 Peter 2:1-4). There is no better description of the PG and its preachers than what the apostle gives here. The PG never seeks the good of its hearers but as lie from the pit of hell seeks to destroy them.

The PG has been weighed on the secular scale and has been found wanting. No need to mention that it also fails miserably on the biblical scale. So to those who are still trapped in the yoke of PG, hear the words of the gospel of Christ. Christ’s greatest gift is not material wealth. It is not an excellent health. These he can give if he pleases. His greatest gift is salvation from the wrath of come. Christ is the bread of life that endures to eternity. Labour not for the riches of this world, which are here today and gone tomorrow. What shall it profit you if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?  Come to Christ, rest in him, labour faithfully with your hands, and trust him to provide for all your needs (Matt. 6:25-34).

 

 

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My Life as a Christian

From My Devotions This Morning… (10/03/2018)

Tough Love

“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works”– 2 John 10, 11.

At the heart of Christianity is love. Paul reminds us that of the three, faith, hope, and love, the greatest is love (1 Cor. 13:13). However, we should not confuse love with tolerance of falsehood. Love does not mean paying a blind eye to heresy that threatens to destroy the Church.  Christians must never give approval or support to false teachers. Those who preach the false gospel, which is no gospel at all, are not misguided brothers but the enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18). Of course, we should pray for them, love them while hating their falsehood, show them their error, and strongly challenge them to repent. But Christians should not offer them any encouragement or hospitality for it might be interpreted as a sign of approval. The false teachers might also take advantage of any hospitality shown to them to pounce on the unsuspecting and vulnerable people with their heresies. This for sure is tough love.

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Christianity and Society

The Church and Politics in Malawi

In less than a year from now, Malawians will go to polls to elect their president, members of parliament, and local government leaders (councilors). As always, some of the questions that Christians have now include should Christians join politics and what role should the church play in regard to politics? In this post, I am wrestling with such questions and endeavoring to give answers that I believe are biblical.

We will do well to begin by reminding ourselves that Christ is the King over all the earth (Col. 3:16, 17). He is the one who removes kings and sets up kings (Dan. 2:21). As one Dutch Reformed theologian once observed, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

Therefore, Christians can and should join politics if the Lord calls them. They should not be afraid to accept the calling believing that politics is a dirty game as it is often said. For sure, politics like any other human institution can be full of sin at times, but Christianity is not Gnosticism, which believes that the matter or the world is evil. Christianity does not minimize the consequences of the fall on human race yet at the same time it is always hopeful of the power of the gospel and the knowledge that Christ is redeeming his creation including the fallen political systems of our world.

The Westminster Confession of Faith best captures the Bible’s teaching about a Christian’s involvement in politics: “It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate (government official or politician), when called thereunto: in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth; so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion” (Chapter 31.5). Please notice the emphasis here is that Christians who are called into politics are to maintain piety, justice and peace of their country.

But while Christians could be called to serve as politicians, the calling of the church is different. The church is never called into politics. She is called to pray for magistrates and give them godly counsel when needed to but she should never turn the pulpit into a political podium.  (There is a great nuance here since when Christians join politics it could also be said in one sense that the church is in politics. But I believe that you get what I am trying to put across. The separation of the church and state is never absolute because we will always have members of the church who are also members of the state).

Again, the Westminster Confession of Faith is helpful here: “Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate” (Chapter 31.5)

It is important to notice that the confession does not completely prohibit the church from petitioning or advising the government. When the civil magistrates have asked the church for advice, the church should do so gladly and dutifully. “The Church and State may co-operate in the advancement of objects common to both; but each of them must be careful to act within its own proper sphere- the one never intermeddling with the affairs which properly belong to the province of the other.”[1] Nonetheless,  the cooperation of the State and the Church must never mean blurring the line that clearly separates the two.

That said, the next question I anticipate is: doesn’t the church ought to have a prophetic voice in society? Certainly, the church has a prophetic voice in any society; but it does not mean that she as an institution should become directly involved in the politics because that is not why Christ established his church. Christ often demonstrated that his mission was to be differentiated from that of the state. For example, Jesus refused a request of a certain man who asked him to mediate between him and his brother regarding their inheritance and specified that he was not a judge of a civil court (Luke 12:13:14). Another example is when Jesus was before Pontius Pilate. Christ refused to associate the Church with the kingdoms of this world when he clearly told Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence,” (John 18:36).

What if the government oppresses its citizenry?  Isn’t the church supposed to defend the poor and vulnerable and even be willing to pick up arms to fight against a wicked state? The Bible calls Christians to obey only the lawful commands of the magistrates. Therefore if the magistrates command what is unlawful, the church ought to stand up and declare as the early church that she will obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). Nevertheless, it’s never the calling of the church to be in forefront picking up arms against the state.

The Reformers, more especially, John Calvin ably discusses how the Church should respond to “wicked and intolerable” governments. He notes that the Church which in this case means members of the visible church (whom Calvin also refers to as private citizens) should never directly pick up arms against the state but rather support other magistrates who after observing the wickedness of their government/leadership have mounted resistance. This teaching is sometimes called the Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates. Calvin writes,

For if there are now any magistrates of the people appointed to restrain the willfulness of kings…I am so far from forbidding them to withstand, in accordance with the duty, the fierce licentiousness of kings, that, if they wink at kings who violently fall upon and assault the lowly common folk, I declare that their dissimulation involves nefarious perfidy, because they dishonestly betray the freedom of the people, of which they know that they have been appointed protectors by God’s ordinance.[2]

The Church is not a lesser magistrate (an opposition party). The lesser magistrates, especially those who are Christians, have a responsibility to restrain the evil of unjust kings over their subjects. In cases where the greater magistrates (governing authorities) are oppressing their citizens, Christians should come behind the lesser magistrates and support, pray, and encourage them in their efforts to curb the evil or injustices from the greater magistrates. All this is to be done within the bounds of the just laws.

[1]Robert Shaw, The Reformed faith: exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith(Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2008), 398.

[2]Calvin,Institutes of the Christian religion.IV.XX.31

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Christianity and Society, Christianity and theology

Polygamy is NOT “African Christianity”

Last week one of Malawi’s Paramount Chiefs, Chief M’Bwelwa V was quoted by the country’s media warning the Presbyterian church in northern Malawi to stop preaching against polygamy and drunkenness. The chief’s warning has received mixed reactions. However, one reaction I have found interesting is the one that argues for “decolonization of theology.” In case of polygamy, proponents of decolonization of theology argue that polygamy is a Ngoni culture or  African culture hence African theologians and pastors should develop a theology that doesn’t condemn it because, the proponents further argue, the teaching against polygamy was imposed upon Africans by Western missionaries.

There is a lot that can be said about this fallacious argument; however, I would like to briefly point out two things: First, looking at the history of Christianity in Africa we know that even African theologians like Tertullian in 2nd and 3rd Century AD and St. Augustine in 4th Century AD condemned polygamy.

Tertulian wrote,”We do not indeed forbid the union of man and woman, blest by God as the seminary of the human race, and devised for the replenishment of the earth and the furnishing of the world and therefore permitted, yet singly. For Adam was the one husband of Eve, and Eve his one wife, one woman, one rib,” (Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers Down to  AD 325 Vol. IV by Alexander Roberts).

St. Augustine in his treatise, On Marriage and Concupiscence, argued: “That the good purpose of marriage, however, is better promoted by one husband with one wife, than by a husband with several wives, is shown plainly enough by the very first union of a married pair, which was made by the Divine Being Himself” (Book 1, Chapter 10).

So, it is misleading to argue that preaching against polygamy is a Western theology. It is NOT! Our own forefathers  taught against polygamy long way before Western missionaries stepped their foot on African soil because our forefathers were faithful to God’s word and not their culture.

Some of my fellow pastors and church leaders who have to preach against polygamy in Malawi

Second, the proponents of decolonization of theology point to the fact that no where in the Bible is polygamy explicitly condemned except in the case of office bearers in the church (1 Tim. 3:2, 12). However, we know that when God the designer of marriage first established it married one man and one woman. More importantly human marriage is a reflection of the perfect marriage of Christ and his bride the Church. Christ has only one bride so should also those who say they follow Christ.

We should not forget that the first person to have a polygamous marriage was Lamech from the ungodly line of Cain (Gen. 4:19). In case of the patriarchs like Jacob or David we should note that theirs were not the ideal situations. Although they were God’s people what they did was not right and never reflected what their God had initially intended. So although proponents of decolonization of theology will cite these examples, they know that they are not good examples. So why dwell on bad examples when the Bible tells us to, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8)?

 

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