ARE YOU A CONSISTENT CHRISTIAN?
ACTS 2: 42-47 Hymns: 4,150, 406,533,643
How would you know that a person has been saved? Here is a case of a Mrs. Donga who comes to the church, she has confessed faith in Christ and so is a church member. She gets tired of the sermons and does not feel like attending the Lord’s Supper and prayer is not one of her best activity. She does not delight in the word of God but if there is one word that she can use to describe this whole experience is boredom. Obviously, these are things that she has not shared with you but she comes to the church occasionally, she misses the Lord’s Supper many times in a year. She does not attend prayer meetings. What would be your conclusion of such a person if you were her pastor?
Here is Mr. Kilele who receives the Word of God with gladness and joy. He is so thrilled about it that he goes round telling everyone what a wonderful thing that the Lord has done in his heart of forgiving his sins and granting him forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Looking at him closely you discover that after the first year he is so bored by the sermons that he daydreams during the worship service at best otherwise it is during the service that he plans his business plans silently in His mind as he admits when talking with him. He sleeps during the prayer meetings but mostly misses them. If there are, people who make him sick are the Christians because they seem to have this or the other need. Would you conclude that the person is saved?
The third one is Mr. Holyfield who does not even know particularly when the Lord worked in His heart but proceeds diligently in fellowship and his life is moulded within the context of the local church. He is aware of the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart to bring about regeneration and remembers to have repented of his sins and pleaded for mercy to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is steadfast in biblical teachings and to prayer and the fellowship of brethren. He is always available for all the means of grace that God has provided in the context of the local church.
These are the people that the Lord describes in the parable of the sower, some good seed fell on the way others fell upon the rock, others among the thorns and yet others on the good soil. (Luke 8:4-15)Which one of this person do we show the traits?
Last week we found out how God by His Spirit moved wonderfully in the constitution of the first church to bring three thousand people into the church. How he worked through the Spirit and His Word to cause them to believe in the Lord Jesus. We pursued the thoughts further to know the preparatory means that God uses to bring about conversions. These are: the Holy Spirit who regenerates hearts of sinners to cause them to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. He uses the prayers of the church to prepare the way for conversion of sinners. We also found out that the immediate means that cause conversion are the preaching of the gospel.
Today I would like us to consider how these converts continued in their newfound life and how this life produced more converts. Sinners are saved as result of the preaching of the word of God and the effects of this word in the lives who profess to have been changed. This calls for consistent Christian living. So the great question that I would like us to ask ourselves today is; Are you a consistent Christian?
This is because, practically speaking there are two reasons that make a sinner to be attracted to Christianity:
He/she is guilty stricken and so look for the Saviour who is able to deal with this sin like for the case of the three thousand who were converted on the day of Pentecost.
The second reason is admiring the way of life of the believers. Like the case of those who were saved subsequently after the day of Pentecost as we read in this passage. When I got saved I thought I saw people who had something that I admired in them that I knew that I did not have. The Holy Spirit moved in my heart to see what I lacked – the Saviour. Both are the sides of the same coin – one negative and the other positive.
This passage provides a litmus test that you need to apply to yourself and even to others to discover whether or not you or they are Christians.
1. THE LIFE OF THE BELIEVERS
How do we know that a sinner has been transformed from the darkness and conveyed into the marvelous light? To start with, he separates himself from the world then he joins the life of the local expression of the body of Christ and continues in it.
These people were formerly unbelievers who had rejected, condemned and crucified the only Saviour of their souls. They refused to receive Him as the long-promised Messiah but instead mistook Him to be an imposter and so thought that He deserved death by crucifixion. However, they were now convinced by Peter’s sermon and the miracle of tongues as well as the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Being convinced, they received this message with gladness and joy as people who had known the hope of their eternal salvation and received Him as their Lord and the Christ. Let us look at their lives further as a pattern for ours
Occasional emotions are not enough – many have perished and many will perish in their sins who were often and deeply impressed and the Lord himself said that it is only the one who will endure to the end who will be saved.
These new church met very naturally and proceeded as a church as such. They people met not under the social considerations of any sort or any compulsion, but willingly. They did it naturally from the fact that they had become members of this body. They were part and parcel of this institution and could not do any other. They did not come merely to perform a task or a duty. If you do not go to the church gladly you need to ask yourself whether you are a Christian at all. Christians do it gladly and cheerfully in order to meet with their Saviour in the company of His people. If it was not convenient to celebrate the Lord supper within the temple courts then they artlessly met in their homes. When there were poor among them they gave to meet their needs – they did not recommend them to a SOS, nearby. They took care of the poor in obedience to Christ and Apostles who told them to remember the poor (Gal. 2:10). Although the apostles never told them to sell their property to support the needy yet they gave with the joy of giving voluntarily and cheerfully (2Cor. 9:7). To pursue this matter to show their zeal for it they instituted the office of the deacons.
The Bible says that they continued steadfastly and they continued daily. This is to say that they were constantly together. They were not just the Pentecost Christians (there are too many like that today). They persevered as Christians who were destined to be with their Master and Saviour. They served Him with commitment and loyalty continually remembering that He had given His very life for the remission of their sins. That He constantly remains at the right hand of God the Father in heaven interceding for them and for us also. How many times do we meet in a week?
According to this passage those people who do not go to the church or have not use for it are by definition not Christians at all. Those people who go to the church occasionally are at best very doubtful Christians. In this category are the people who go to the church with the least devotion and dedication. Those who attend the churches when there no interesting football matches in the Supersport. Those who find it hard to come for the Sunday worship service because the World Cup is on.
You may say that the economic situation then was different from ours in Nairobi. Granted – but the question is, do we or do we not follow the pattern? We are busy looking for food and wealth – these were the same things that these people were also doing. Look at the way we are dedicated to our jobs (which we ought to be) but it should not be at the expense of the spiritual things. We need to serve the Lord with a greater dedication than these brethren who devoted them this way. We are more privileged. How much are we committed and consistent in our calling. Imagine a Christian who when applied for membership and said that he will be helping in preparing the Sunday Lunch ye he has never gone to the kitchen? Where is our commitment to the Lord? Remember that it is only those who persevere in their first love up to the end who will have life.
They were fully committed to the life of the church in its entirety. They were not just doing these things half-heartedly. It was with great enthusiasm and zeal. They were eager to spread the supremacy of Christ, to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and to be conformed to His likeness. They were new beings who wanted to live it. Their devotion to biblical teaching was total, their devotion the fellowship was unconditional, their devotion to prayer was absolute, their devotion to the breaking of bread was unqualified, their devotion to sharing their belongings was unconditional their praise to God was unparalled. Talk about devotion and you would find it here. This is the pattern for our taking; this is what we should aim to be as individual members of the body of Christ.
Let us examine the things that produce and sustain Christians who will last in this century and beyond.
Have you been baptized as a believer?
Do you delight in being instructed of the Lord?
Do you enjoy the fellowship of the brethren?
Do you savor the Lord’s Supper?
Are you excited to commune with the Lord in prayer?
Are you glad to share your property with others more especially the believe
This describes the enthusiasm these believers demonstrated in a common bond: at worship, at meals, and in the sharing of their material goods, showing their unity with Christ and with other brethren.
Do we take the needs of other people so troublesome that we prefer to keep them at bay? There were birds of your feather in the New Testament but they are denounced for their excuses (1John 3:17; James 2:15-16). We should not refuse to get involved in others’ troubles because we are members of the same body.
How a consistent Christian are you? In Brotherly love and mutual charity. Remember what James says – Faith works by love.
Do you take pleasure in praising God?
Do we conform to this picture? Is this true of us? Is this the sort of thing that we are doing and delight in?
2. THE EFFECTS OF LIVING A CONSISTENT CHRISTIAN LIFE
A. FAVOUR WITH GOD AND MEN
The Bible record that the life of these Christians received a favour from God. God blessed their fellowship. He worked a greater love for one another in their hearts. He gave them gladness of heart. God gave them generosity and bigheartedness. He made them to have a high regard for His people in order to show their love for Him. So they gave generously towards the needs Old Testament of those among them. God gave them unity of mind and heart and so were able to fellowship together with gladness.
God showed His favours to them working many wonders and signs through the apostles. Just as He had attested the work of Jesus in His ministry on earth so did He attest the work of Christ’s agents. He used them to bring forth His Word and when He did so, He manifested Himself as the one speaking by working signs and wonders. But more than that He saved sinners in their midst. The Bible clearly records that “the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
They had favour with men – they were willing to bless one another even materially. They were devoted to fellowship in that they may be together.
B. CONVERSION OF OTHERS
Sinners will get converted when you will show that you are enjoying the graces that God has given the believers. God commands a blessing where brethren are at harmony with one another as Psalm 133 says. The best of the blessing that God does is conversion of sinners among His people.
Of course, who wants to join a miserable crowd? Who would like to be in the company of mourners? Who will want to live with people who have no excitement in the Lord’s blessings? But all will want to be with those who are under the shower of God’s blessings.
Do wish to see people being saved? Then we need to show them by our actions that the life of a Christian is the best not by our words but by our devout Christian living. We need to live our talk by being what we have been called to be. We must commit ourselves fully to the work of the Lord in order to attract more for the Lord.
Take this case:
All those who call themselves believers are all here at nine even 8am for the Sunday Worship Service. Each person is doing his or her duty – those who are singing are doing so – singing his or her hearts out. The Sunday school teachers are happy to teach and do it with such exuberant joy that others can apparently see how much they relish it. During the service no one is sleeping, instead, everyone is busy with his or her notebooks and when the service ends no none seems to be in a hurry. After the service, the brethren want a longer time of fellowship and so they had brought their lunch to eat together. The fellowship persists even to the evening service and everyone wants to prolong the time of fellowship together that nothing else seems to matter. If one has a need everyone is willing to contribute towards the need with such eagerness that the brother in need is the one who says enough! During evangelism is not just a few people who turn up. During the prayer meetings the hall is full. During the work day you are all here, During the Dine & Listen you all are here. When we go for the Lord’s Supper, it is an a time of applause of joy.
I want to remind you that because our time here on earth is short and hastening to conclusion – devote yourself and dedicate your whole life for this one thing- to please Him who has ransomed your soul with gladness of heart and of spirit and of mind. There is no one second to spare and this is why these brethren devoted themselves to the doctrine, to fellowship, to prayer, to breaking of bread. In addition, because of their dedication and devotion, God blessed them and others through them. Even bringing wonderful moments of refreshing through the salvation of sinners and were added to them.
Would we want this church to grow? Then you have heard our duty.
You are there, you have considered yourself and you have realized that you are a sinner who needs a Saviour. I will tell you a very simple thing that you must know and do. Jesus is the only one able to add you to the number of His people – turn to Him now. Acknowledge Him by repenting your sins to Him. Ask Him to be merciful to you, a sinner. Ask Him to take that terrible heart of stone, hardened by sin, that every sinner has and to replace it with the heart that will listen and obey Him. Put your trust in Him and you will be among His number when He will come and the saints go marching in to His glorious kingdom. Please do not leave that door when you have no relationship with the Lord Jesus.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
We are living at a time when the gospel truth is compromised and not preached effectively. At a time when there are great claims on conversions. Many have gone to the point of reporting to us through the media the number of people who were saved. For example, it has been reported as a result of the great evangelistic work by Reinhardt Bonnke, half a million people were converted in Kenya. Is it possible for us to know the number of those that have been saved? Yes and no. Yes, we can tell from those who have professed faith and consequently been baptized. And No – we cannot be able to tell immediately after the gospel is proclaimed that ten or a hundred have been converted because it is not just a lip confession – it is something that takes place in the heart of a person.
The second thing that I think is important for us to consider is to inquire the place of miracles in conversion. Miracles do not and cannot produce conversion. At best they can produce wonder and awe – that’s all. Many of those who were among the crowd in Jerusalem on this Sunday that Peter preached, walked away to their homes in awe and amazed at Peter’s sermon and the miracle of tongues, yet unconverted. How many attend the healing crusades and are not saved. Many go just too quench their doubts and others to prove the preacher wrong and yet others just follow the crowd.
1. What are the preparatory means that precede conversion?
Fervent prayer for the unconverted by the church
This church of 120 members had been commanded by the Lord before His ascension to wait for the promise of the Spirit in prayer. We are in turn told that they all met together in prayer (1:12-15; 2:1). So prayer preceded this remarkable occurrence of salvation of so many. God is able to work without means like the way He did in creation from nothing to something. In other cases He chooses to use means – it may be clay like in the case of creation of Adam, or mud in the case of that blind man, but whatever means He decides to bless in order to accomplish His divine purposes is important that it is used. For the salvation of sinners God uses His Word and blesses it with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He also uses human mind and mouth in order to have the Word reach the sinners. In prayer we are told to ask and we are promised that we will receive; to seek and we will find and so many other promises come in the same manner (Promise must come through the appointed means).
Effusion of the Holy Spirit - Miraculous gifts accompanied the apostles
These miraculous gifts served at once to strengthen the faith of the disciples in order to qualify them for God’s work of declaring the gospel to the people. The gift of the Holy Spirit was the crowning evidence of the divine mission of the Saviour – it is the one promise that was promised as the proof of Christ's ascension and exaltation to the right hand of God. It was the evidence that the Christ’s work of atonement was accepted, and therefore it marked it as efficacious.
2. Have you had the full effects of the gospel?
What is the relevance of Peter’s sermon to an unbeliever?
The gospel message has its full effect and the full effects of the gospel are evidenced by the conversion of a sinner. Where this has not happened the gospel has not been effected. Once a conversion has happened then the person is completely transformed and made a new creature. The old is gone – the filthiness of sin, the debased mind and the calloused heart and all that an unbeliever has disappears. The operation that God effects in a person is complete, thorough and radical so that the converted person is made to know and enjoy all the benefits of being a child of God.
It is through the preaching of the gospel that sinners are confronted with the truth about their internal condition and the holiness of God, and His grace and mercy to a sinner who will go to Him in repentance and faith. That the unbeliever may meet with the saving God who saved in the first century and who has been saving sinners ever since, that he may turn to Him for his own conversion.
For those who are saved, firstly, may be reminded of how God operated in you to bring about the salvation that you now have. And secondly, that you may know the part you ought to play in the salvation of your children, parents brothers, and sisters.
Conversion starts with one’s realization of his wretchedness and inability. One must see the state he is in and seek some external help. One must feel the guilt of offending God and the danger or peril he has consequently put himself into.
· It must produce guilt in the sinner’s mind and conscience
We read that when these people heard this sermon, they were
· It must produce helplessness and total inability
· It must open one’s eyes to seek external help
· The external help must be sought from only One – Jesus Christ who has dealt wit
3. The gospel is the only solution for you
· One must repent of his sins
Repentance is turning away from one’s sins having discovered its vileness. One must see how greatly the sin is terrible, this comes after a carefully thinking and reflection leading to a change of mind in reference to moral good and evil and more especially to one’s character and conduct. It might be accompanied by regret and sorrow but it must produce a revolution of heart and life in that order.
· One must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who shed His blood for the sole purpose of remission of our sins. He has perfectly and completely paid the penalty for our sins.
· One must receive the Holy Spirit
· One must be baptized in the Name of His Saviour.
The Holy Spirit operates in two different ways to bring about conversion:
Externally by the gifts of utterance and even miraculous signs
Internally giving such inward graces like faith, repentance, love, peace, joy, which make the elements of a new spiritual in the soul. It is by this that He applies the truth with power to a sinner’s heart and conscience, subduing his will, and bringing him into captivity to the obedience of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who is able to open both the heart and eyes of sinners so that they are able to be turned from the darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to the power of God
The direct and immediate means of conversion
The direct and immediate means of conversion is preaching of the gospel truth, applied to the heart and conscience by the Holy Spirit. No conversion followed on the gift of tongues or the prayer. Conversion came after the gospel was proclaimed to the public.
Three successive stages in the experience of those who were converted.
The whole crowd was called to witness the miraculous gift of tongues. this produced awe and wonder in some and scorn and contempt on others – these are the effects of the gospel wherever it is proclaimed, some reject the gospel and others are left with anxious inquiry.
The second one the work of conviction
The bible says that were pricked in their hearts even to inquire, “what shall we do to?”
The third stage the work of real conversion.
At this point the sinner is persuaded to embrace the Lord Jesus for his own salvation.
Peter starts with dealing with the minds of his audience who well biased against the disciples. He deals with the accusations that the mockers had against them – that they were intoxicated or at best over-excited for nothing!
He then goes to the Scripture in the prophetic passage Joel relating the events of the day with the fulfillment of this passage. He then proceeds to show that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, approved of God among them as attesested by signs and miracles. This he does by tracing the life of Jesus from his beginning at Nazareth, through his public ministry to the cross, from the cross to the grave and from the grave to the heavenly throne. He very powerfully appeals to their own knowledge to preach Christ and Him crucified, leaving them with guilty consciences. The main objective of peter is to show these Jews that “God has made the same Jesus whom you have crucified both Lord and Christ.” That the same Jesus who was born at Bethlehem, brought up in Nazareth, crucified on Calvary, was the messiah who had been promised to the fathers, and that he was as His Name says – the Anointed of God.
The effect of this sermon is that the people are brought at the point were they could see the danger with which they had placed themselves in and their utter helplessness. When they open their mouth to show their poor state, peter carefully points them to “Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you, and unto your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Look at the freeness of the gospel – it starts with Jerusalem! That city of murderers who having killed God’s prophets, now kill His very own Son.
THE RESULT OF THIS GREAT WORK
Three thousand souls were converted suddenly by one sermon. There is much in this account to encourage the militant church to zeal. Zeal in prayer, in preaching and to devotion on the spiritual things. The sudden and simultaneous conversion of many souls, and the daily and gradual increase of the church by the successive single additions to their number are both mentioned in this passage.
What is baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ?
It is to be baptized in His divine authority, acknowledging His claims, subscribing to His doctrines, engaging in His service and relying on His merits.
Who qualifies for this wonderful blessing?
The promise is for YOU and your POSTERITY and EVERYONE else wherever he may be as long as the Lord calls him to Himself. The call of God is without boundaries or any restriction whatsoever.
Note how this word was received – gladly. They received this word cheerfully and with joy.
They were baptized the same day and became members of this church at the same time.
How does one become a part of this spiritual society called the Christian church? How does one become a member of this community of living people that we find in the book of Acts? How does one become a Christian? What does it mean to become a Christian?
There is time when one I s not a Christian and then he becomes one. It is something very definite and concrete. We are told that on this particular day three thousand people who were not Christians were added to the number of the very first church.
According to the NT, the people who do not know what it is to be a Christian, or cannot tell why they they are Christians, by definition, are not Christians at all.
If you read Peter’s sermon, you see that he quotes his Scripture, he develops certain arguments logically. He makes his case and you cannot contradict it. But Peter’s sermon, read in cold print, does not account for the fact that three thousand people were converted. What gives a correct account is the action of the Holy Spirit – they were pricked in their hearts. Peter does not do that he is not able to do. It is for this reason that I believe that it is a misnomer to call this book Acts of Apostles because I believe it should be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit!
Men and women who heard Peter were in trouble in their consciences because the Holy Spirit was working greatly in their hearts and consciences. For this reason the Bible says that they cried out. This was the work of the Holy Spirit, and there would never have been a Christian church but for this work of the Holy Spirit. This is what makes the church to be there and gives her the impetus to persist. This is the explanation for the revivals and reformations of all the centuries. Christianity is not something that any John or Mary can take up because it is the Lord who works through His Spirit to bring about conviction, confession and conversion in a sinner. The conversion of the three thousand people was entirely because of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Spirit using the Word of God and the lips of a frail ignorant man, driving the words into the minds and hearts and consciences of those listening. Paul says: 1Cor.2:1,2: Ephe 2:1-5
The Holy Spirit goes into a person using the Scriptures and applying it into them. He is a powerful influence, and influence that baffles our understanding, defying analysis and explanation, but just know that it has happened.
How does the Holy Spirit work in the life a sinner?
He causes a person to think – Peter in this sermon says ‘therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus, who you have crucified, both Lord and Christ. The Spirit make us to think not about ourselves to start with, because Christianity does not begin with us, to think about Christ. This is what Peter made this crowd to think about. They were given the objective historical facts about Him and they for the first time turned their necks to see Jesus for who He was and is. When they were pricked in their hearts they were thinking about He whom they pierced. You have lived a life of sin by default, you have lived in ignorance to Christ who the fountain and source of life, so you were also involved in crucifying Him. By doing nothing about Him, you reject and crucify Him.
The bible shows the Pharisees as the most hopeless people in the bible because they have no use or place for Him. They reject Him in totlality, the publicans