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Posts Tagged ‘God’

Preaching has become the easiest thing to do in this country, trust me. You can just wake up and pick on something you like and can connect with people, then off you go! It’s a plus if you add just a little bit of charisma… and don’t forget that Hebrew or Greek vocabulary! Some fancy topic will always do the trick.

I think the reason behind this is that we as preachers always want the easy way out. Why should I spend so much time working on a text preparing my sermon? Why should I dare preaching through a book or a chapter or a passage Sunday after Sunday? Especially of the passage is hard to understand! But if ever we are going to see congregations grow into maturity in Christ then the Word of God must be faithfully preached from our pulpits. And that will mean hard work.

The aim of preaching is gospel transformation—in as much as we aim at the hands (get people serving) and the head (knowledge), the main aim really is the heart (transformed into His likeness- maturity). This is really demanding because ‘heart work is hard work.’

But because we don’t want to labour much, what do we do, go for the easiest thing- our hobbyhorses!

Just walk into a Kenyan Church, these are the topics that will most likely be covered throughout the year:

  1. Relationships
  2. Spirit of Excellence- academics, business
  3. Prosperity- possess your possession
  4. Domination (Principles of)
  5. Positioned for Greatness
  6. Money and giving
  7. Spiritual growth
  8. Spiritual warfare
  9. Cults and occults
  10. Mission month- hear stories from missionaries in the field & congregants have that woow feeling!!
  11. Embracing our ‘Kenyanness’ (One love Ke, We are One)
  12. Discipleship; Read the Word more, Pray more, be good (do’s and don’ts)
  13. Leadership
  14. Faith
  15. Restoration, Rebuilding Broken walls!
  16. Moving to the next level… Turning a mess to a message
  17. Wealth Transfer- from the wicked to the righteous
  18. Forgiveness
  19. Spiritual gifts; tongues
  20. Motivation; you can be a better you
  21. Vision- Church Building Projects
  22. Victorious Christian Living
  23. Sowing on wings like an Eagle
  24. The year of Jubilee (this is a big one… but 2013 is coming to end and it isn’t a year of Jubilee really!)

Perfect! That is a two-year preaching calendar for you (thank me later!)

You realise that the emphasis on Christ is less and less. What we hear is more of me-centred preaching rather than Christ-centred preaching. Me (the preacher and the listener) determines what is to be preached… it’s no longer the Word that guides our message but our message determines the scripture we’ll turn to as a back-up to our message!

I am not saying that this isn’t the right thing to do but there’s a danger that when we do this, we set the agenda instead of the Word setting the agenda. In the end, we’re only addressing people’s felt needs & not the most crucial need for a Saviour! And as 1 Cor. 1:23 says

But we preach Christ crucified a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles

Christ crucified… that’s all we’ve got to preach. This isn’t the most appealing message that people wanna hear!

But because we aren’t doing that and we don’t want to be offensive, what happens is that the Bible (Word) is no longer in the driving seat, it’s been relegated to the back-left, or chucked out altogether. There’s a great danger here because a few years down the line, people’s ‘needs’ will have changed, their status improved but still they’ll be impoverished spiritually!

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In this short but rich book, Mike Reeves raises the question ‘What is it that makes the Christian God distinct from any other god- say Allah?’ Our understanding of the Trinity is the key to unlocking this. This doctrine of Trinity has been neglected yet it is core to our Christian belief.

He says “What makes Christianity absolutely distinct is the identity of our God. Which God we worship: that is the article of faith that stands before all others. I can believe in every other aspect of the gospel but if I don’t believe in the triune God, then simply put, I am not a Christian.”

I couldn’t agree more! In our own context, most of us would say we are Christians and we believe in God yet we actually don’t know the God we believe in. If we are to think Christian then we are to start by thinking Trinity! The temptation for us is to sculpt God in our own assumptions; we think He is a single-person God yet the God of the Bible is clearly a triune God- Father, Son and Spirit.

It’s only a clear understanding of the Trinity that will help us not to fall into doctrinal errors such as Arianism: thinking of the Son as being less of the Father and that there was a time when He never existed… or the error of Modalism: we think of God as a single person who takes on different modes or moods- sometimes as Father, other times as Son and still other times as Spirit. The H2O analogy we use is particularly not helpful; “the Father all icy until you warm Him up then He turns into the watery Son, who then vaporizes and becomes the steamy Spirit when you really crank up the heat!!”

What then would be the best way to describe God? Can’t we just say that He is Almighty? Or the Creator? Well, all these are the right attributes of God but in and of themselves are not sufficient. Mike points out that the very first feature is that our God is the Father. This is the God that Jesus, the Son reveals to us. As a Father, He has loved His Son before the creation of the world (John 17:24). This God is love (1 John 4:8). “Before anything else, for all eternity, this God was loving, giving life and delighting in the Son.”

Now, this is some profound truth; that the Father is never without the Son- the Son is the eternal Son, there was never a time when He didn’t exist. The Father loves the Son, the Son is the beloved of the Father and then the Son goes out to be the lover and the head of the Church. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” the Son says (John 15:9).

 

baptismThe Father’s love for the Son is clearly seen at Jesus’ Baptism, the Spirit descends on Him like a dove and then we hear the Father’s voice “This is My Son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17). The Spirit stirs up the delight of the Father in the Son and the delight of the Son in the Father. In the very beginning, God creates by His Word (the Word that would later become flesh), and He does so by sending out His Word in the power of His Spirit or Breath.

John Calvin once wrote that if we try to think about God without thinking about the Father, Son and Spirit, then ‘only the bare and empty name of God flits about in our brains, to the exclusion of the true God.’

Functionally, this is how the Trinity operates:

  • In creation, we see the Father’s love overflowing. Richard Sibbes says, “It is not that God needed to create the world in order to satisfy Himself or become Himself… The Father, Son and Spirit ‘were happy in themselves, and enjoyed one another before the world was’. But the Father so enjoyed fellowship with His Son that He wanted to have the goodness of it spread out and communicated or shared with others. The creation was a free choice borne out of nothing but love.”
  • In Salvation, we see the Son sharing what is His. “No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side has made Him known.” (John 1:18) The triune God gives us His very self, for the Son is the Word of God; God doesn’t just tell us about Himself, He gives us Himself.
  • The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of life; He gives us new birth into new life. Not only that but He gives us Himself so that we might know and enjoy Him and so enjoy His fellowship with the Father and Son. The Spirit enlightens us to know the love of God by opening our eyes to see the glory of Christ. Thus, in the Christian life, we see the Spirit beautifying it. Though we are sinful creatures, the Spirit cultivates in us a deepening taste for Christ, the epitome of beauty, the Spirit polishes a new humanity who begin to shine with His likeness.

Our personal and relational God is such that the Son is distinct from the Father and yet is of the very being of the Father and is eternally one with Him in the Spirit.

The theologian Karl Barth wrote: “The tri-unity of God is the secret of His beauty. If we deny this, we at once have a God without radiance and without joy (and without humour!); a God without beauty. Losing the dignity and power of real divinity, He also loses His beauty. But if we keep to this… that the one God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we cannot escape the fact either in general or in detail that apart from anything else God is also beautiful.”

The question now remains: which God will we have? Which God will we proclaim?

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Yesterday’s Church service was quite encouraging; not because the preacher had a Rhema word that spoke to my current prevailing situation or because we sung praise and worship until the heavens came down but because there was some faithful Bible teaching from the pulpit! In a country where we get less and less of the Bible being preached but more and more of preachers expressing their own agenda and using the Bible as a back-up, it’s only prudent that we marvel and rejoice when we see the Bible being taught faithfully!

The O.T text was Genesis 11:1-9 (The Tower of Babel) and the N.T text was Matthew 19:1-30 (The Rich Young Ruler). The ongoing series for this month are on ‘Discipleship’ and on this particular Sunday, the topic was ‘Misconceptions of Discipleship.’ The first good thing is that the preacher stuck to the texts given, he didn’t jump about from one thing to another.

From the Genesis passage, there were two main points that were drawn out;

  • Humanity seeking Self-Praise- All men uniting to build a tower whose top reaches the heavens with one aim of making a name for themselves!

This is what man-made religion does; seeking glory and praise for man instead of giving praise and glory to God. It was helpful here for the preacher to draw out some relevant illustrations from the contemporary scene where we see so many false teachers whose aim is nothing but making a name for themselves! The application being we need to be weary of seeking to make a name for ourselves and that every effort we make in trying to ‘reach heaven’ by our own means apart from Jesus Christ are only but futile.

  • Humanity seeking Self-sufficiency & Security- Here, they built a city in order that they won’t be scattered/dispersed in the face of the earth.

The problem with their thinking is that it is exactly in contravention of the command that God had given to ‘go and fill the whole earth.’
They have forgotten that this is the duty of man and now want to have a city of their own where they can be secure from the dispersion. And oh, how often we seek our sufficiency and security from other things apart from God! It could be our finances, our wealth, knowledge, education, family or even church. We easily drift off the purposes God intended for us and form our own goals that we seek to achieve.

He was clear and precise and in 25 minutes or so, he had driven his point home.

Can we have more of this please?

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