Thursday, December 22, 2016

Urgent Call for Missions

How do we prepare for the coming of our glorious Redeemer?

I wish to make an urgent appeal in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ: Christian Brother, will you go out with the gospel? Do you not know that there are many communities who are yet to hear the gospel of Christ? The great commission (Matt. 28:19-20) is as fresh today as when it was given on the first century. The Lord does not wish that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, He said,
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14)
What is the gospel? It is the glorious good news of the salvation of sinners from their sins, misery and eternal woe; by the most loving and gracious saviour, Jesus Christ. Christ perfectly obeyed the Law of God, which we could not obey, and so purchased the righteousness of God for us. He died our death and perfectly satisfied divine justice. The gospel brings sinners to the kingdom of God under the reign of Christ.
This gospel will not be proclaimed by the angels – it will be proclaimed by Christians. It is financially supported, not simply by the wazungus... it is by us, here in Nairobi, here in Kenya. So my friend, what are you doing for the gospel to be proclaimed?
The gospel is to be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations. As we speak, there are many communities in Kenya who are yet to know of Christ. Right here in Nairobi, there are Nubians, Somalis, Rendille, Boranas, and so many other people groups who are without God, without Christ! Believe it or not, there is a community that is devoted to moon worship here in Kenya – the Rendille. How are they going to hear?
The love of Christ controls us, (2 Cor. 5:14) so that we no longer live for ourselves, since Christ has died for us. You should consider leaving what you are doing and go out to make disciples of all nations. Remember that the coming of Christ is tied to this glorious enterprise of disciple-making.
The Lord says here, “…and then the end will come.” Shall we not ‘hasten’ His coming, humanly speaking? Surely we want others to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4). But this cannot happen unless they hear the gospel. And they cannot hear the gospel unless someone preaches to them. But no one will preach to them without being sent (Rom. 10:14-15). Are you going or will you send someone? Surely, those of you who have recently completed college can spare a year or five for the cause of the One who left the glory of heaven for you, and He is coming again to take you to His kingdom, can’t you? If you can’t go, then give for the support of those who have heeded the call to go. And you have sent someone, then commit to regularly visit him, will you?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christian Ministry - Spiritual Power

1 Corinthians 18-21
Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? 

Paul openly rebukes the Corinthians for their arrogance in his absence – this is hypocrisy. Paul was going to visit them undaunted by their arrogance. When he visits, he will discipline these arrogant people. He expected a confrontation in which the power of the Holy Spirit would reveal some disciplinary action against those who harm the church.
Paul, then introduces the kingdom of God (v.20). The phrase, ‘the kingdom of God’ means, God’s reign/rule in human life. Christ is the King of kings (Matt. 6:33; Mark 10:15; Isa. 41:21). Christians are members of the kingdom of God because of the Lord Jesus Christ who is enthroned in their hearts as King. Christ brought this kingdom by His coming. Christians possess an inheritance in the kingdom in the future (Matt. 25:34; Luke 22:16; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 12:28).

But the problem is that the Corinthian church members were not living as citizens of this kingdom. They were more ‘Corinthians’ than pilgrims headed to the Celestial City. They loved divisions just like the world. They tolerated immorality. They spoke in arrogance and pride just as the world. The same word in verse 6 translated ‘puffed up’ is here translated as arrogance. Literally, it means, ‘bellows’ for it shows itself in big talk (v. 18; cf. 5:2 and 13:4). They were full of talk without any spiritual power (v. 19). They needed to appreciate that the Christian life and service is not a matter of empty words but of power in holiness, spiritual maturity and obedience to God.
We ought to judge a preacher's doctrine, in terms of its effects in godliness in himself and his hearers. Find out if one’s ministry is producing likeness to God, and to Christ. Are people getting more heavenly-minded or are they worldly? Do you see spiritual change in men's hearts? Are people killing sin? Do you see spiritual piety? Do you people tremble at the word of God?
Then Paul put it to their choice how he should come and deal with them. Shall I come to you with a rod (whip) or with love and the spirit of gentleness (v.21). The point is if they continued in wickedness then it would be essential to come with a rod to chastise them for their indiscipline demonstrated by their ungodliness and want of righteousness.
Stubborn offenders must be dealt with severely. In families and in Christian communities, paternal pity and tenderness will require to be shown by chastisement. Christian love and compassion sometimes force formative discipline.
Yet he was also willing to display to them the tenderness of a father. Christian ministry should always be tempered with the spirit of love and gentleness predominant, and yet to maintain its spiritual power, and discipline.

What are the characteristics of Christian service?
1.   Faithful Stewardship (vv. 1-5)
2.   Humble Ministry (vv. 6-8)
3.   Willing Service (vv. 9-13)
4.   Fatherly care (vv. 14-15)
5.   Exemplary Living (vv. 16-17)
Spiritual Power (vv. 18-21)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christian Ministry - Exemplary Living

1 Corinthians 4:16-17
I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 

Paul urges them, “be imitators of me.” Later on he tells them the same thing in 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” It was fitting for him to urge them to ‘imitate’ him for two reasons:
First, Paul had personally set them an example of hard work in the ministry. They were the products of his labour among them. He had set them an example of humility and dependence upon God. Paul was indeed a trophy of God’s grace (15:10) and an example of hard work.
Secondly, Paul’s ministry had fruit of good example in Timothy. Timothy who had occupied the same position as the Corinthians of being called Paul’s ‘beloved’ (compare v. 14 and v.17). Timothy had shown himself faithful child in the Lord. For this reason he was going to send Timothy to remind them of his ways in Christ that were worth of emulation. In sending Timothy Paul was proving to them that he teaches the same things in every church everywhere. Timothy like the Corinthians was one of his spiritual children and, therefore, well equipped to remind them of the example of their spiritual father.
Ministers ought to live in such a manner that attract people not only to follow them, but consequently follow Christ. They are the teaching and learning aids that Christ has given the world for their education in the spiritual things. Pastors, we have a responsibility to guide the flock of God by our lips and our lives.
Writing to the pastors, apostle Peter says,
shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. (1Peter 5:2-3)

Therefore, like Timothy (4:12, 15-16) we have to set those who learn from us an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. We are to practice these things, immersing ourselves in them, so that all may see our spiritual and ministerial progress. This way, we may save ourselves and our hearers (as the God-appointed means of the salvation of men).

And like Titus, we are to show ourselves in all respects to be a model of good works. In our teaching, we are to show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing to say about or against us (2:7). They should follow us as far as they are satisfied that we follow Christ in faith and practice.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christian Ministry - Fatherly Care

1 Corinthians 4:14-15

I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
God has graciously given the church ministers, who not only demonstrate the love of God, but also the fatherhood of God. Those who serve in this ministry must develop a caring and loving relationship that is fatherly. See Paul’s very special relationship with the Corinthians, not as their guide or guardian, but as their father.
A ‘guide’ or a guardian or godparent or pedagogue was a man, usually a slave. His work was to take a youth to and from school, and generally to supervise his activities. He told them that they had many of those, but only one father – Paul! This is what informed the statement, “… you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.” (v.15). Paul on his part asserts so confidently, “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
What does a father do? First, he sires them. During his stay of more than eighteen months in Corinth, Paul had seen many of those who composed the membership at Corinth come to a new birth. He was their spiritual father, because through him they born again. He was the instrument in the Redeemer’s hand for the spiritual birth of the Corinthians. Undoubtedly the Spirit regenerated the Corinthians. But the Holy Spirit uses means. The means of new birth used for the salvation of souls is the Word of God – since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Pet. 1:23). Who brought this word of God to them? It was Paul. Paul described the human agency of a preacher this way:
It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! (Gal 4:18-19)
Secondly, the father disciplines in order to make them better.
Negatively, the father does not shame his own children. I do not write these things to make you ashamed…” Paul says. That is to say that a good father does not do anything that provokes his children to anger.
Positively, the father admonishes out of his love. “but to admonish you as my beloved children.” Paul says again. Those who are loved have to be disciplined. This is true even of our heavenly Father as we read in Hebrews 12:6-7:
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
When rebuking sin, we should have a regard to the reputation, as well as the reformation of the sinner. We should distinguish between sinners and their sins. In Christian service we take care not to discover any spite against those we serve. There should be no guile in us.

If you fail to reprove in the spirit of gentleness you risk exasperating them. Kindness and gentleness are likely to reform more than a rod, yet the two are not mutually exclusive. When the affections of a father mingle with the admonitions of a minister, it is to be hoped that they may at once melt and mend. We must never lash like an enemy exposing them to ridicule from the world.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Christian Ministry - Wiling Service

1 Corinthians 4:9-13
For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul presents himself as an example of one of the servants of the Lord. He does this to demonstrate the need for Christian service to be a willing service. Apostles were God’s exhibits of Christian service. Paul calls the apostles as those presented by God as the last of all! He is thinking of the Roman triumphal procession in which captured enemy soldiers were paraded through the streets before being publicly executed. Therefore, it is willing service because it is not for the faint-hearted.
Christian service is for those who will do anything and everything that the Master who ransomed them by His own blood commands. Even if this means death! After all, the price paid for us is so high. How can we not be willing to pay whatever the cost may be?

He uses a military conquests illustration, which we ought to consider again:
For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.”
After the great victory in war, the captives of war were paraded by the Romans general to show the power of the empire. Paul put himself and his fellow faithful apostles in this category of captives of war! Those captured were exposed to the gladiators in the amphitheater where they would either be devoured by lions or they would fight it out to death. The apostles have become public spectacle to the world, to angels and to men! The shame could not get worse. They were sacrificed to die.
Serving God and the Lord Jesus Christ in the world means living according to principles, standards and values that are so different from those the world that they appear foolish. This is why he says, “We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ.” This is because usually serving Christ means becoming fools before the eyes of the flesh. Christian servants are more often weak and suffering dishonor. Servants of Christ have to contend with being hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed and buffeted, homeless, laboring and working with own hands, being reviled, suffering persecution, slander, becoming the scum and the refuse of the world in all things!
Christian ministry is a hard work, yet honourable for it is to serve in the Sovereign King of kings. Yet it is full of hazards and dangers for the devil and all his wicked armies, the world and our own flesh is up in arms to capture and destroy our souls. However, it’s joy is so glorious for the victory is eternal. The faithful ministers and disciples of Christ should gladly undergo anything for their Master’s sake and honour of bringing hope and light to the world.
Faithful ministers should patiently bear reproach and being despised, so that the wisdom and the power of the grace of God may be demonstrated. All Christians do not suffer the same things but they all suffer in Christian service. If you have not endured any hardship then you are not serving under the banner of Christ!
Yet the most outstanding is the sweet and fragrant juice that comes from the squeezing of the servants of Christ. While they are squeezed to the pulp of foolishness as they preach the gospel, through them many are made wise unto salvation. Through their terrible sufferings leading to great weakness, many who are made strong in the Lord. Although Christian ministers may lose reputation in the face of the world, yet their service makes spiritual fools become God’s honoured children. Therefore, in the service of our Master, our charter should be, When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat (vv.12, 13). This is how Paul answered the accusations (cf. Acts 16:37) lest falsehood be established as truth in the public mind and the reputation of the gospel be damaged.
Servants of Christ must show themselves to be His servants holding fast their integrity. They must have a good conscience before God and men, whatever opposition of hardships they meet with from the world. Whatever they suffer they must follow the example of Christ and fulfil the will and precepts, and affliction of their Lord. They must be content, with him and for him, to be despised and abused.
All this service has to be discharged willingly. This is why it comes with all these pressures from within and without so that those who are not willing may fallout. Like Gideon of old Christian servants have to be subjected to all form tests so that those who are double minded may be winnowed, the faint-hearted may be blown away, the fearful may be filtered, the unqualified may be left out so that an army of three hundred men appointed by God to show His power in the gospel may be left to bring down the kingdom of darkness and establish the kingdom of Christ.
The Apostle Peter puts one of the qualifications of pastors like this, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly…” 1 Peter 5:2-3) In this Peter gives three exhortations to elders to show them how they are to carry out their pastoral mandate entrusted to them,
1)    They are to shepherd the church gladly or willingly according to the will of the Chief-Shepherd instead of doing it out of a sense of compulsion.
2)    They are pastor the church eagerly and not out of greed or for shameful gain. Instead of doing it for what they have to gain out of it, they do it for the love of the Lord and His flock
3)    They are to serve by setting the believers examples and not use their position of leadership to lord it over the flock or domineer

In other words, pastoral ministry, and all other Christian service should be voluntary, willing, and eager service. Unless compelled by the love of Christ, no other motivation should come into play to compel anyone to serve. Otherwise it should be a willing service!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Christian Service - Humble Ministry

1 Corinthians 4:6-7
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? 

It is always good to apply the truth one preaches to oneself, even before applying it to others. This is what the Apostle does here. 
Paul acknowledges that he had been so far evaluating the ministry of Apollos and himself. He actually applied all these things to himself and to Apollos. This was in order to benefit the Corinthians, by teaching them to learn not to go beyond what is written, so that they regard them according to the scriptural parameters. 

Mark the words ‘not to go beyond what is written’ which encourage us to know our boundaries are the Scriptures (v.6a). This is a good place to learn the regulative principle of worship. We must not argue from silence and so be guilty of adding. Neither should we argue away what is written and so minimize what the Lord has said effectively subtracting from the Word of God and from our basket of divine blessings.
Surface obedience to the Scriptures and the commands of the Lord is one of the wicked suggestions of the devil in order to ensnare us away from the Lord’s will for us. This is pride, which Paul describes as being ‘puffed up.’ The devil teaches pride. For God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. The humble keep within the limits of the Bible, neither adding nor subtracting. We know that Corinthians were proud of their human wisdom. They may have thought that they were very discerning in their choice of their favourite preacher (v.6b). But actually, to be proud of one’s discernment is to lack discernment!
We must realize that there is a very close relationship between the sin of unbelief and the sin of pride. The relationship is that while the latter abandons Christ for idols, the former abandons Christ for self-gratification outside of the will of God. The battle for humility is the battle for the true Christian faith. No haughty or arrogant person will enter the glory that was purchased by the humble Saviour.
Humility is acknowledging that all you have are gifts that you have graciously received from Christ! First of all you are what you are by grace, for who sees anything different in you?  (v.7). All the temporary blessings are from God, for what do you have that you did not receive? (v.7) And since you received how then can you boast as if it is a wage rather than gifts? Paul is simply saying that arrogance is not congruent with true Christianity.
In condemning their foolish pride, Paul turns to sarcasm: Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! There is an illogical retrogression from sufficiency to wealth, and then to royalty!

Pride too soon forgets and disdains he who enthroned it! Pride is a great hindrance to your improvement. For when you start reigning in your haughtiness you no longer think you need grace to become better or to listen to God’s servants who enrich you. Due attention to our obligations to divine grace would cure us of arrogance and self-conceit.

When everything has been said and done the questions to consider are:

1. Are you serving the Lord?
2. Are you serving in humility?
3. Are you willing to do whatever the Master commands in His Word?
4. Do you evaluate your service under the scrutiny and spotlight of the Word of God?
5. Do you only use Scripture as the paradigm?