The Remote Route

We started our journey at 5.00 AM wanting to be in Nyahururu for breakfast at 8.00 and then proceed to our destination – Rumuruti. In the car was Peter Muturi, our Graduate Apprenticeship Programme Manager and Kevin Odhiambo who looks after the regional work and TransformD, our school leavers discipleship programme. Patrick Macharia, our regional staff for Mt. Kenya was to travel from Nyeri and meet us in Nyahururu so that we can travel to Rumuruti together.

Our journey was fairly smooth save for the mist around Kimende. We stocked up on fuel at Gitaru to ensure that we have enough to last us for the return trip for we knew it would be a long journey ahead. Yet we had plenty to talk about with these brothers – about the many trips we have made in a Probox to various destinations across the country making gospel connections or supporting and encouraging God’s people.

We got to Nyahururu in good time where Peter had arranged for us to have breakfast with Patrick Kariuki, our alumni who lives and works in the area. We had agreed to meet at ‘Comfort’ hotel but for some reason, Peter Muturi changed his mind and took us to another establishment called ‘Olympia’ hotel. We did not raise an issue since he comes not too far from the area and probably knew what he was doing. Maybe comfort is not what you seek while in ministry which is akin to Olympic races – tough and demanding. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our breakfast and conversations.

Patrick Kariuki soon joined us and we got chatting. We reminisced about his days as an apprentice at Christ Supremacy Church in Kangemi back in 2016 – the many people we could remember and their whereabouts as well as the goings on in our personal lives. Patrick served as one of the pastors in Nyahururu town. But he had further news to share – his bishop had recently asked him to take charge of a congregation in Manguo, an area just outside of the town. What an encouragement it was for us to see a man whom the Lord allowed us to interact with and play a part in his formation, now shepherding God’s flock in Manguo! But how did you end up here Patrick? I enquired.

“I came here to seek opportunities after the apprenticeship. I joined a local church, went to see the bishop and offered to do anything at the church. The only available opportunity was a janitor in the church. I juggled between looking after the buildings and attending classes the church was offering. Over time my bishop started assigning me more responsibilities. I am now involved in Bible teaching and pastoral leadership”

This got me thinking. Here was a brother who understood that ministry is about servant leadership. He was literally living out John 3:30 ‘I must decrease, that Christ may increase” Ours is call to serve the Lord, ready to do whatever needs doing without waiting to be asked or expecting to be thanked afterwards. That is the essence of our apprenticeship programme. It is easier said that done for sure but certainly the hallmark of our calling to servant leadership.  

Patrick Macharia eventually joined us from Nyeri and together we proceeded to our destination. ‘Rumuruti is the local corruption of the colonial name for the town on the ‘remote route’ from Nyahururu to Malaral. Remote Route eventually became Rumuruti – an area vast and open for exploration. As Annete Sheila starts her ministry there this week, here are a few thoughts for her and all of us in ministry to bear in mind.

  1. Ministry is remote.

We can sometimes be blinded by a sense of glamour when we look at celebrity preachers on TV and the internet and assume that is what ministry looks like. In reality that path of ministry is tough. Battles within and without make it quite a challenge to remain true to your convictions and expected action. There will be loneliness, confusion about what exactly is expected and difficulty in seeing fruit. Reflecting about his own ministry Paul says

“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”

2Cor 11:24 -28

Dear servant, if our Lord suffered, the departed faithful who have gone before us suffered, it won’t be any different for you and I. It might take a different form but you can be sure of this – in this world you will suffer many trials, yet you can be encouraged that the Lord is with you (John 16:33, Matt 28: 20)

  • Expect the unexpected

The nature of life is such that we don’t always know how the next minute, day or season will turn out. We live one moment at a time. Yet we can sometimes live with the illusion that we might know and even control the unexpected. In reality, the unexpected happens and how we respond matters much more that what actually happened. In our return trip, a heavy downpour came down soon after we passed Ol Kalou heading to Gilgil. The day had been warm and clear but all of a sudden we were in a hailstorm. So thick was the fog in the car and outside that we could barely see five metres ahead. We slowed down, put on hazard lights and slowly kept going. At one point, we had to stop completely.

In his farewell address to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20: 22 Paul speaks of the uncertainty of the path ahead of him “And now behold I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there…” The only thing he was certain of is that there will be difficulties (v23).

Dear servant, the path of ministry is rife with uncertainties. There are unexpected twists and turns. Our confidence in handling the unexpected is in knowing we are not doing this on our own but the Lord has indeed sent us and is with us. Like in the book of Acts, the Lord sends help from unexpected quarters so that His gospel advances.

Some help for the brethren came our way at a place called Kinamba
  • Look to Christ

As we get involved in ministry, we can easily take pride in our institutional structures or our own organisational skills and hope that they will serve us and make for our great experience in the field. We may be tempted to forget that the work is not ours but actually belongs to Christ. Those very structures and skills will often fail us and we can be grossly disappointed. Whereas the more recent developments in ‘member care’ and HR practices are to be lauded for encouraging workers to more resilient, Christians of years gone had little if any of that yet they bore fruit and fruit that has remained. How did they keep going through pain and hardship? By looking to Christ.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Hebrews 12: 1-3

Dear servant, look to Jesus. May your confidence be primarily in Christ. He is the one who calls, who equips, who sends and sustains workers in His harvest field. He is your true eternal reward. iSA, Placements, churches, organisations, leaders and even yourself will certainly be a source of disappointment at some point – may your confidence not be anywhere else but in Christ.

  • Serve with others

If ministry were a sport (Olympic or not!), it would most be certainly a team sport. We are called to be a community and to work with others. We do not serve alone but actually with others. We are not to be lone rangers but team players in the work. In his closing remarks in the book of Colossians, Paul mentions at least 10 people with whom he labored.  Some were church planters like Brother Epaphrus and Sister Nympha, others were encouragers like Tychichus and Justus, others were practical helpers like Dr. Luke. No wonder Paul would have been unashamed of partnership development, he writes in his famous missionary prayer letter;

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity… Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.  And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Philippians 4: 10, 14-20

Dear servant, work with others. Honour those whom the Lord has brought your way for your training and equipping. Watch out for the individualism that has creeped into every aspect of modern society that exalts the ‘I” and makes you the centre of all things. Decrease that the Lord may increase in your. Invite others into your ministry as your partners. Do not go alone – go with others.

  • Serve with joy.

Whereas ministry is indeed a remote route, we are to serve with joy and gladness of heart. Joy is not circumstantial happiness but a state of the heart. Sometimes it is expressed as happiness but that is not always the case, for indeed it is possible to have joy even in suffering. Staying with Philippians, it is striking to notice that the letter is written from a Roman jail (1: 7, 12-14) yet it is full of rejoicing.  Paul prays with joy (1:5), has joy in proclamation of the gospel (1:18), Calls believers to rejoice (2:18, 4:1, 4:4) and rejoices in their partnership (4:10)

Dear saint, Ministry will be draining and for sure there will be plenty of reasons to be sullen and despondent on many occasions. You will need to intentionally choose to be joyous rather than wait for good things to happen to you so that you can rejoice. Joy will be a daily choice you make. Celebrate the small wins, rejoice over what the Lord is doing and keep going. Even though things are tough and terrain rough, rejoice in the Lord always and again I say to you rejoice for that is the way to stay strong through the remote route.

Civic Responsibility

Romans is a very exciting book in its structure. Throughout the book, Paul is making a case (argument), gives proofs (reasons) and then goes on to point us to a conclusion, often a very practical application. From the beginning of chapter 12 to the end, Paul is making a case for right living as a believer – since you have been saved and you have been given gifts now live rightly with God and others. Now, present your bodies as living sacrifices – in other words, offer yourself up to God, not conformed any longer to the patters of this world but rather transformed by the renewal of your mind so that you many know and do the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. To such a transformed people, Paul will go on to say…

“Let love be genuine, Abhor (hate) what is evil. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Romans 12: 9-13

Now all these and more might sound like moral platitudes and they are exactly that because a call to Christ is a call to obedience. We obey not in order to be saved but because we have already been saved from disobedience and rebellion to reverent obedience and submission. If the call in 12: 9 -21 is for Christian living within the body of believers in a more personal way, then the verses we are looking at today call the believer to live rightly as citizens in a more public sense. The big idea is to see God calling us to gospel-driven responsible citizenship in the country that he has ordained for us. We will see this argument laid out in three simple questions – what, why and how. 

  1. What: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” Romans 13:1a

Civic responsibility means the patriotic and ethical duties of all citizens to take an active role in society and to consider the interests and concerns of other individuals in the community.

The apostle Paul makes an important call – that every person whoever they are and wherever they may be, whatever their circumstances they are to be in subject to the governing authorities. To be subject to means to be submissive under the rule/authority of another. For example, a student ought to be subjected to his/her school – meaning willingly obeying the instructions/expectations or rules and regulations of their school.  Paul is saying that all who call on the name of the Lord, be obedient to those who rule over them. It is worth noting that Paul is writing to Christians living in Rome at a time when the Roman empire was quite hostile to the Christian faith. In less than 10 years from the writing of the letter, Paul himself will be martyred for his faith by Emperor Nero, yet here he is calling believers to obey their governments. Please notice he does not qualify the statement with additions such as ‘democratically elected government’ or ‘when the policies are favorable to the church’ or ‘when the laws are serving your interest’ No – he calls believers to be subject to their governing authorities.

  • Why: “For there is no authority except from God” Romans13: 1b.

Paul makes it very clear why Christians should submit to their governments – they are instituted by God (13:1c). Theirs is a delegated authority – given by God for the right ordering and flourishing of human life and good living with others. He will give a reason (for) at least five time in 6 verses … look with me in verse 1 – For there is no authority except from God, for rulers are not a terror (v3) for he is God’s servant for your good (v4), for he does not bear the sword in vain, for he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. This is all very striking description when you think of government officials – police, county government revenue officers, judges and magistrates or ministry of lands officers. They are servants of God! It is no wonder then, Paul will give this very firm warning: Whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed and those who resist will incur judgment (v2). The government official, says Paul, is a servant of God who is there for your good (repeated in v4 and v6). Therefore, one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

In these verses, Paul also shows us the role of government: To serve God by maintaining of law and order – punishing wrongdoing rewarding right conduct (v3) now, that can only be done if good and evil has been defined. Moral good is already defined by the word of God and legal/societal and economic good is to be defined by the government. The government then, bears a sword of authority given by God. (v4) and will be held to account. We see plenty of that in the scriptures. Now, Paul does not tell us how such government will come to be in office or for how long. That will be left for different societies. The call for the believer in whichever society, is to honour and obey its government. However, when a government loses its calling to justice, law and order then the Christian duty is to call it out. It is one of the founding fathers of the American society Thomas Jefferson who once said: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” Christians then, are not to obey blindly the edicts of their government but actually have a duty to hold it to account to the higher authority – God.

We see plenty of examples of that in the OT where the prophets are calling out kings for their excesses and reminding them that they hold office on behalf of God. Perhaps a memorable example of that is in the book we have just been preaching from 1 Samuel 15 where prophet Samuel announces to King Saul “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being King

  • How: By Obedience, Honour and Love (Verse 6 – 10)

Paul’s case for civic duty is settled but the question lingers how do Christians in Rome, and those in Kenya today obey these words? He gives us three ways in which this truth can be applied in the lives of Christians

  1. By Obeying the law. A clear way to be a responsible citizen of your country is to obey the law. This will include paying taxes and revenues (v7), following the regulations of your county government, obeying traffic rules and reporting offences. In context, this would also include making the law – by participating in elections (Vox Populi, Vox Deo), public discussions and legislative processes.  Luke 2 gives us an insight into Joseph and Mary when their colonial government ordered a census. They went to their home-town to be registered. No one among us should be indifferent – we are to participate in putting into office the right people. It is often said that evil triumphs when good men and women do nothing. I get upset to hear of people who were too lazy to register as voters or to change their polling stations. Yet they will be complaining of bad roads, uncollected garbage or unsafe boda bodas for the next five years. Dear saint – repent of your indifference!
  • By Honoring/Respecting those in Office. Paul uses the word fear in verse 3 to mean hold in reverence. He also used the words ‘Respect’ and ‘Honour’ in verse 7. We are to hold in high esteem those in authority. We are to be careful in how we address those to whom responsibility is given. An unhelpful culture of disrespect is sweeping through our times where everyone is addressed on first name basis. Soon we devalue those we disrespect, despise and afterwards we disobey. Dear saint – watch your words. Outdo one another in showing honour (12:10).  One way to honour your leaders is by praying for them. In 1 Timothy 2: 1-4 Paul calls believers to pray for those in authority, especially that they may come to the knowledge of the truth;

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

  • By loving our neighbour. Paul uses the golden commandment of love as the motivation for responsible gospel driven citizenship. He calls us to love one another for love is in indeed the fulfilment of the law (v10). If we love one another – there would be no adultery, theft, corruption, love will give way in traffic, love will not move boundaries in your plot, workers will be paid a fair wage, we would care for the environment – for love does no wrong to the neighbour (v10b). The opposite is true –  when we don’t love we engage in all kinds of greed: MPs award themselves huge salaries to the detriment of the economy, corruption will mean means there are no public spaces, public transport becomes chaotic etc. Dear saint be a good law abiding citizen by loving your neighbour. As we were reminded last week – you are the salt of the world, a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. Let your good deed so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13)

Conclusion: The Gospel Motivation – Put on the Lord Jesus (Verse 11 -14)

Brothers and sisters, all this can be a heavy burden, if we don’t remember our source of strength. Paul reminds us of the time we are living in – that the night is far gone and the dawn is at hand. So then, let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. The only we can hold up in true gospel-driven responsible citizenship is by putting on Christ who humbled himself and became obedient, even to the cross. Run to him today.

Tithes, Seeds and Firstfruits

Sermon at: GracePoint Church, Kikuyu.

 ‘Have you made unusually many trips to the hospital, spending lots of money on doctors, consultations and medications? Thundered the preacher, ‘Or do you find that you have very many trips to the mechanic trying to fix your car? He continued. Or maybe it is the screen of your smartphone. It is because you are not faithfully tithing that is why these misfortunes are coming your way’ He went on. If you don’t give, then even what you have is not protected from moth and rust. So give according to Malachi 3:10 and secure the rest of your income/wealth.

Such messages ring from many pulpits, radio stations and other medium across the continent. People are made to feel that unless they give very specific amounts and in the correct label/category then God might not bless them and they might also be open to all forms of misfortune.

This form of deception emanates from a misunderstanding of the scripture especially the Old Testament where ideas/practices are lifted and applied directly without reference to the cross. Worse still is that this kind of teaching relies on African Traditional Religion and the fears that ATR upheld such as the evil eye, hence the need for spiritual protection over children or property.

Giving in the Old Testament

In the OT we see a number of ways in which people give. There are specific sacrifices and gifts that form the worship pattern of God’s people in the OT. We shall consider 3 of them;

  1. Tithe. The word Tithe means a tenth of one’s income or produce. We first see it done by Abraham in Genesis 4: 17 -20 and later by Jacob in Genesis 28:22. Later on Moses institutes it as part of the Law in Leviticus 27:30 (Deut 12: 5ff, 14:22 -29 and 26: 1-19). It was expected that all of Israel would give their tithe (part of their produce) and this would be given to the priest (Levites), the homeless (sojourner), the widow and the fatherless. The prophets rebuked Israel when people did not give their tithes.
  • Offering/Freewill offerings: These were general gifts given by Gods people on a voluntary basis. (Leviticus 23:38). In the Law, the free will offering was to be of a male bull, sheep, or goat with no physical deformities or blemishes, and it was not to have been purchased from a foreigner (Leviticus 22:17–25). The offering was to include flour mixed with oil and wine; the amounts varied on whether the sacrifice was a lamb, bull, or ram (Numbers 15:1–10). As with all sacrifices, the free will offering was to be made in a place of God’s choosing, not in an area formerly used by other religions or at home (Deuteronomy 12). Offerings could be given any time (Deuteronomy 16:10). Unlike other offerings governed by stricter rules, the priests could eat the free will offering on the day it was sacrificed or the day after (Leviticus 7:16–18).

The first time a free will offering is mentioned in the Bible is in Exodus 35:10–29. God had given instructions on how to build the tabernacle, and Moses relayed what supplies were needed for its construction. The people responded as their hearts stirred them, bringing jewelry, fine yarn, tanned skins, silver, bronze, acacia wood, onyx stones, spices, and oil. These items were all donated “as a freewill offering to the Lord” (Exodus 35:29). Centuries later, the people made similar offerings for David to pass on to Solomon to build the temple (1 Chronicles 29:6–9). In the book of Ezra, the people gave traditional animal offerings (Ezra 3:5) as well as supplies to rebuild the temple after the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 2:68; 7:16; 8:28). The people also made animal offerings in 2 Chronicles 31 when King Hezekiah, one of Judah’s best kings, led the nation in returning to God and reinstituting His ceremonies.

  • First fruits: The concept of first fruits is rooted in a context where people lived as an agricultural community. God called his people to bring the first yield—the first fruits—from their harvest to him as an offering. This was to demonstrate their obedience and reverence for God. It also showed that they trusted God to provide enough crops to feed their family. (Deut 14:22)

“When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.” —Leviticus 23:10.

Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” —Proverbs 3:9

First fruits had to be brought to the temple priests. No other crops could be harvested until after the first fruits were presented. The Israelites saw first fruits as an investment into their that God would bless all that came afterward.

“The first of all first fruits of every kind and every contribution of every kind, from all your contributions, shall be for the priests: you shall also give to the priest the first of your dough to cause a blessing to rest on your house.” —Ezekiel 44:30.

Closely associated to the idea of first fruits was the idea of firstborns – they belonged to the Lord and were dedicated to him (Exodus 13:2) since they were literally the first fruits of the womb.

Conclusion on OT Giving: One Big Lesson and One Big Warning

Giving was an integral part of worship and showed whole-hearted devotion and commitment to the Lord who is the source and indeed the giver of all things. It modeled a love for the Lord with all mind, heart and strength. Application: Worship the Lord with your gifts

OT worship was a shadow of the reality that was to come – Christ, the ultimate gift from God. It later became legalistic and a heavy burden upon the people (Matthew 13). When the purpose is lost and the forms remain then it becomes a meaningless tradition/culture.

Warning: Stay away from religious legalism – OT ideas can shape how we think about giving but it all has to be taken through the lens of the cross.

New Testament Giving

In the gospels, Jesus talks about money quite often but not about much on giving specifically. An often misquoted verse Luke 6:38 – Give and it shall come to you – is really not about giving but actually about judging others. However, we see giving modelled most poignantly in the sacrificial coming, living and dying of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. All Christian giving then is to be done in light of the cross and any giving that does not stem the cross is not Christian.

In the passage that was read today we see Paul calling the church in Corinth towards generosity. He commends the churches of Macedonia for their sacrificial giving and shows us a model for giving. Here then are some lessons we can draw about Christian giving;

  1. Christian giving is an outpouring of and a response to the gospel. ‘We want you to know about the grace of God that has been given among the churches’ 8:1, 5, 9. Christian giving begins with and ends with the gospel ‘They gave themselves first to the Lord’ V5 and in verse 9: You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…. Here the motives are important. If the heart is not with the Lord, then the gift – no matter the size may, not be precious. The example of Ananias and Sapphira is instructive – their gift was big but their hearts were not. The language of NT giving then is thanksgiving (for the gospel) (9:10 -15). Giving then is not a means to another end but actually an act of worship in thanksgiving to what God has already done. Here, then labels do not matter(Tithe, Firstfruit, Offering etc) – the heart does.
  • Christian giving is unlimited in scope. Because it is giving from the heart, the amounts do not matter. It can be everything or hardly anything. Jesus talks about the widow who gave two copper coins as being very generous in Matthew 12:42-44. In Acts we see people like Barnabas selling land and putting it in apostles feet to be used for gospel advance. People lay down their very lives before the Lord, spending and being spent for the sake of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says each one must give what they have decided – not what has been imposed on them or to fulfill any pre-set conditions.
  • Christian giving is ernest, cheerful and generous. 8:8. Paul says that he does not command the believers to give yet they are to be eager, ready and zealous to give to show that their love is genuine.  He knows of their readiness to be generous and encourages them to prepare their gift.  Unlike tithes which are dues to be paid, Christian generosity is expresses willingly, earnestly (not reluctantly) and under no compulsion. (9:7). It is not an exaction but a willing gift (9:5)

So, can I Tithe? Yes and No.

  • No because there is no NT imperative (command) to tithe for believers.
  • No because Christians do not follow OT worship regulations. We live in a different time and place, in a different economic model.
  • No if your motive is to reap the benefits associated with tithes in the OT.
  • Yes, Tithing can be a helpful discipline, done with the right motive – to honour the Lord with our income consistently.
  • Yes, because it points to the Lord being our highest priority hence coming first in our financial decisions
  • Yes, because there is no prohibition/restriction of it in all of scripture. The christian is at liberty to label their gift as they may choose. Giving is an act of worship and the worshipper needs the space to exercise their conviction.

Charismatic Error

The year was 1996 during a challenge weekend in our high school.  The weekend had been ‘power packed’ with so many boys coming to Christ. Then came Sunday afternoon, the climax of the whole weekend – The rally, when CU’s from other schools could join in and everyone looked forward to it. The visiting team (missioners) came from a ministry based in Thika and they were very well prepared. I could see them pacing up and down in the special classroom that they had been assigned and from where they would get their meals and hold special prayers in preparation for the main sessions.

Then the meeting begun. After a series of choruses, presentation from other CU’s – finally the speaker took to the stage. He preached a sermon from Acts 2 reminding us – about 1000 teenagers gathered in the Assembly Hall that in the latter times the Lord will pour His spirit on all flesh and young men will see visions. He later made an altar call for people to come to Christ and many went to the front to be prayed for to receive Christ – but it was not over. There was another alter call for those who wished to receive the holy spirit in their lives.

At first I was stunned – I did not realise that one needed a second, separate event to receive the Holy Spirit different from conversion. I had never heard of that before. I had been a Christian since childhood but this was a new teaching all together. Yet it was attractive. Those boys who had experienced this before spoke of it in very enticing terms – One would be caught up in ecstasy, speak in a new tongue and might even be overcome in the power of the spirit and fall on the floor.

Out of curiosity I went up the stage. A huge number of us had responded including girls from other schools. Then the prayers begun. The speakers came round laying hands on each of us to be ‘baptised in the Holy Spirit. They asked us to close our eyes and open ourselves up to ‘receive’ the holy spirit. They would stick their fingers into our ears, sometimes hold our stomachs or at times lightly tap on our foreheads while blowing air into our faces and whispering the words – receive. The results were dramatic to say the least – many burst out in strange, though familiar phrases which we were told are tongues. Some fell down backwards – losing all control of their bodies and had to be covered in lesos so as not be indecently exposed. The whole experience was labelled a great move of God among us. I did not experience anything spectacular myself. I assumed I did not have enough faith and the teachings afterwards introduced doubt in my life. I always felt like a second class Christian.

My only prior experience of this new spiritual emphasis were akorino movements I saw in our village shops then known as ‘saika’ who wore distinctive colours and usually went round a spot, under a flag and would be caught up in trance-like experiences and would go round shouting ‘saika’. I knew such groups to be outrightly cultic but did not realise the same was being introduced to us in school only packaged differently.

It was not until much later that I learnt in a church camp that the Holy Spirit was given to the church (all believers) and the way to know is in bearing spiritual fruit. 


Of all the teachings in the body of Christ for the last 150 years none has been as divisive as the question of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. A new movement that begun mid19th century begun to teach that it was not enough to receive the gospel but that Christians needed to also be filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. The movement was known as the charismatic movement and had as its key emphasis the infilling of the Holy Spirit, then known as second blessing. It was also characterized by manifestation (public display) of gifts (charismata) such as supernatural healing, word of knowledge, prophecy (foretelling the future), dreams and visions, faith and miracles (extra-ordinary or supernatural experiences). The movement had for its leading lights people like Smith Wigglesworth in the UK, John G Lake in South Africa, Charles Parham and William J Seymour of Azusa Street Mission in the US and many others including Katherine Kuhlman, Benny Hinn, Morris Cerullo and Kenneth Hagin.

Here in Kenya, the movement did not quite gather pace until the 1970’s. However, it exploded in the 1980’s and 1990’s and it is still a major religious movement to this day. Earlier this month a well known city church advertised for a job and one of the requirements was that applicants needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. In fact, another well known established church in this country still requires the evidence of speaking in tongues before admission to membership.

Charismatic teaching is mainly drawn from the apostolic experience of the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, 9 and 10 and Paul’s teaching 1 Corinthians 12 – 14 about the nature of spiritual gifts in what appears to be a response to a question arising out of an existing practice. (12: 1 – Now, concerning spiritual gifts…). Paul outlines that indeed the Holy Spirit has given many gifts to the body for the edification of the whole. This is all good and healthy for the church and there is much to rejoice about. In fact, the charismatic movement has been a blessing to the wider body of Christ by

  1. Calling the church to be spiritually alive. Through much prayer and dependence upon the Holy Spirit the church has been awakened spiritually. Spiritual hunger has led many to seek the Lord.
  2. Increased zeal for the lost. The charismatic zeal and boldness has no doubt inspired many to witness to their friends and neighbours leading to many conversions and churches growing.
  3. Recognizing the place of affections (feelings/emotions), whereas the evangelical movement was busy serving the mind with its deep concern for truth, the emotions were left behind. The charismatics recognized the place of emotions in our faith journey.
  4. Real belief in miracles. Charismatics not only believed in the supernatural but actually expect it in their daily lives. Among the charismatics there is real belief in in Satan and the demonic is taken quite seriously. Evangelicals on the other hand can live as if God is distant and has nothing to do with our world today.
  5. Joy: Charismatics insist that Christians should rejoice and praise God at all times and in all places. This is seen in the music, dancing and even sermons. There is an openness to the Spirit and childlike trust, joy and humility, which is refreshing to see.

However, this has also come with certain excesses and obvious doctrinal errors that should be called out and the church warned against.

  1. The charismatic movement teaches that not every believer has the Holy Spirit. This is an open contradiction to scripture (Romans 8:9, 1 Cor 12:3, 1 John 4:3). This has created doubt among many believers leading to some thinking of themselves as second class Christians. All believers in Christ have the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5, 2 Timothy 1:14, Ephesians 1:13 -14, 1 Corinthians 6:19) for no one can come to faith in Christ except by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The charismatic movement puts personal experience in a position higher than God’s objective word. The whole second blessing experience is pushed by personal testimonies of those who have already experienced. Instead of trusting God’s word, one is encouraged to seek an encounter. The movement makes people a source of authority who have a bigger say in the lives of believers than the word of God.
  3. The charismatic movement unhelpfully puts tongues as the evidence for the Holy Spirit. Although the Pentecost experience of Acts 2 involved speaking in new tongues (languages) this description does not mean that it would happen again or in the same way every time. Jesus who was full of the Holy Spirit never spoke in tongues. Paul clearly says all beleivers have been baptized in the spirit (1 Cor 12:13) and that not all would speak in tongues (1 Cor 12:29). Yet the charismatic movements says the opposite – not all are baptized and that all should speak in tongues. The true evidence of a spirit filled life is departure from evil (2 Timothy 2:19 and Galatians 5:22ff)
  4. The charismatic movement has unbiblical obsession with the person of the Holy Spirit often at the expense of the gospel (Christ). Whereas the Bible calls us to know Christ as the way, the truth and the Life, charismatics obsesses about the Holy Spirit sometimes even praying to the Holy Spirit in a way not patterned for believers. Jesus teaches that the Holy Spirit will not draw attention to himself but actually glorify Christ (John 15:26; 16:13-14). The Spirit bears witness to Christ! The Spirit ever points people to Christ! The glorious ministry of the Spirit is to glorify and lift up Christ! If the Holy Spirit is really working in my life, then CHRIST will become more and more precious to me each day! His blessed office work is to produce Christ-like saints (Gal. 4:19; 5:22-23; 2 Cor. 3:18)!
  5. The charismatic movement implies that the Bible is not sufficient and that we need something else – visions, prophecies, revelations etc. Nothing is more important to a believer than God’s written Word. Although God once spoke at various times and in “divers manners” (through visions, dreams, etc.), He has in these last days spoken by His Son (Heb. 1:1-2).  All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable . . . that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly equipped for all good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17) Though Peter actually heard God’s voice from heaven, he assures us that “we have a surer word of prophecy . . . the Scripture” (2 Pet. 1:18-20).  Jude writes concerning “the faith” (the body of Christian truth) which has once for all been delivered to the saints (Jude 3).  At the end of the book of Revelation, The Lord issued one final warning: LET NO MAN ADD OR TAKE AWAY FROM MY WORD (Rev. 22:18-19) We don’t need any extra biblical revelations or words of knowledge – the word is sufficient.

Conclusion: 1 Corinthians 13

It is worth noting that the basis for much of charismatic theology is two chapters in 1 Corinthians (chapters 12 and 14) written to a divided church that was caught up in an obsessions display of power and wisdom. Interestingly, the subject is not addressed elsewhere in any of the other epistles at least not to the degree we find in these two chapters. However, sandwiched between these two chapters is a precious poem that calls believers to a higher path, that which Paul calls a more excellent way. Let us read it together and draw some lessons to take away today.

A more excellent way

  1. Love is true mark of a believer (verse 1 -3)
  2. The nature of love (verse 4 -7)
  3. Patient
  4. Kind
  5. Does not envy or boast
  6. It is not arrogant or rude
  7. Does not insist on its own way
  8. Does not rejoice at wrong-doing
  9. Rejoices with the truth
  10. Bears all things (persevering)
  11. Believes all things
  12. Hopes all things
  13. Endures all things
  14. Love never ends.
  • Gifts are temporal, fruit is eternal (verse 8)
  • We do not see in full (check your pride)
  • Fruit is more important than gift. Know your focus. Verse 13.

You Don’t Need ‘Deliverance’

Dear Saint, you don’t need ‘deliverance’

Mungai Macharia, Dec 2021.

Big Idea: Christians have already been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and continues to grow in Christ-likeness, trusting in Christ alone and His complete work rather than special deliverance sessions.

If you have lived in Kenyan town you may have come across tents pitched in strategic places where they invite people to walk in to have their blood cleansed – apparently your blood has a lot of toxins. If you walk in they would soak your feet in water and then put in some salt and then turn on a device. After a while the water would change in colour and they would convince you that those are toxins leaving your body. They would then sell you certain herbs or drugs in order to heal the affected part of the body. The only thing they did not tell you was that the water would change colour whether your feet were soaked in or not because this was a simple electrolysis.  The ionic salt they put in simply caused the electrodes to rust and the water changes in colour. It is straight from the deceiver’s rule book: Convince a person they have a problem they know nothing about, develop a solution and then sell it them.

How many useless things are in your houses that you were sold by clever marketers that don’t help you at all? My most memorable one is a certain device I bought at Sarit Centre many years ago. I was convinced by a certain Mr. Patel that it would be slicing our tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers very neatly and quickly. He had some vegetables on display that looked very well cut and he said the simple device did all the job. I imagined how impressed our visitors would be with our kachumbari and decided this is the thing we really needed in our lives. We bought one but when we got home and I tried to use it, it was disaster – I could not produce the finely cut tomatoes I had seen on display. Today, I don’t even know where it is. Our kachumbari is back where it was, we lost our money and we have a useless device at home that either we don’t know how to use or it was over-marketed to us. Such is the nature of ‘deliverance’ ministry as peddled in our continent.


You may have been casually told by a well meaning person that you need deliverance. Usually what they mean is that you need intense prayer in order for a particular problem to end – usually a persistent health problem, a bad habit or they may just be joking about your perennial lateness or sloppiness. But do you really need deliverance?

In the last 3 months we have been on a journey unmasking false teachings that have dominated our country and continent for many years. We noticed from the beginning that deception works in one of two ways either by taking away from the gospel or by adding to it. The reason we are taking the time to labour through these topics is because false teaching is a big deal in the Bible and there are warnings after warnings in scripture calling believers away from deception. Deception by its very nature is shady – it is never black and white, never easy to tel. We therefore need constant reminders so that we can carefully watch our life and doctrine so as not to fall into the trap of the enemy.

The passage that was read for us today is part of a book written to church that was clearly battling deception yet its primary message is perhaps the biggest take-away from this series: Christ is enough for you. He is all you need.  I pray that as we draw closer to the end of the series and of the year itself that you will walk away knowing that Christ is indeed sufficient for you and that you don’t need to add anything else to his complete work – you call and mine to trust in him and walk in daily submission to His will.

What is Deliverance?

In the Biblical sense, the word deliverance simply means ‘to rescue’ or ‘to save’. To deliver is essentially to save someone from a dangerous situation or circumstance. In the Bible we see God’s people calling on him to deliver them. Throughout Psalms for instance, God’s people plead with Him for rescue from their enemies. David in Psalms 59 cries to the Lord for deliverance

“Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me;
deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men

Or again in 143:9:

“Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord! I have fled to you for refuge.”

In many instances in the Bible the Lord is identified as the deliverer of His people (2 Samuel 22:2). Essentially then, to deliver is to save, to rescue or to intervene on behalf. To deliver then, is to save. We can actually see from scripture that deliverance is exactly the same thing as salvation in the Bible.

In the NT, deliverance points to the saving work of Christ on the Cross – that great rescue from judgement. In Luke chapter 2 Jesus is identified as the deliverer of Israel. The word is used interchangeably with the word Saviour because it is exactly the same mission: To save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21)

In Acts 5 we see the apostles pointing to the saving ministry of Jesus.

“The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Deliverer, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”

Peter shows us who the deliverer is and what it leads to – repentance and forgiveness of sin.

Deceptive Deliverance Ministry

As understood by many people in our context today, deliverance is a kind of teaching, prayers and rituals that are aimed to call out evil spirits (demons) from people. It involves special prayers, a particular ‘servant of God’, tools like holy water (exorcism), anointing oil, points of contact like holding certain body parts, slaps, laying on of hands, conversation with the possessed person or the spirits themselves etc.

This kind of ministry is premised on the idea that people are possessed by demonic spirits and that is why they act as they do and if they are prayed for or are taken through a deliverance session, then the problem will go away. At times, this is indeed a sincere desire for rescue from an oppressive habit, a series of misfortunes, bad decisions or broken life circumstances.

At the face value, that kind of ‘deliverance’ looks like a genuine ministry that believers should seek. After all, there seems to be a lot of that kind of ministry in Jesus’s ministry on earth and we also see quite a bit of it happening in Acts of the apostles. However, a deeper look will actually reveal the deceptive nature of this kind of ministry.

First, we need to understand that the purpose of miracles of Jesus and in the early church was to affirm the gospel – pointing to the fact that the savior is here and calling us to put our faith in him (John 20: 30 -31).  They were not to continue in the same way exactly as in Jesus’ ministry or in the apostolic ministry shortly afterwards. Our focus then must shift from the miracles to the great miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and our hope of resurrection.

No wonder there is no imperative (do instructions) anywhere in the NT to deliverance ministry. There is no requirement for elders in Titus 1 and 1Timothy 3 that they were to be good at exorcising demons. The reason is simple – Christians are not demon possessed. The holy spirit of God indwells them and so they have no demons in them. What they need is loving shepherding (1 Peter 5) .

Someone might point me to the sending of the disciples in Matthew 10:5 -15 (also in Luke 10: 1-12) and the instructions to set free those who are demon possessed but clearly that sending is specific to the apostles and localized to Israel – a very specific setting where they are not even to greet people on the road or go from house to house. We cannot take that to be an imperative for all believers at all times and in all places. We are not the twelve (or the seventy-two in Luke’s gospel) but believers in Jesus living in 21st century Africa.

It is also worth noting the pre-dominant worldview of Palestine around the first century AD. One of the realities we see present at the time (and to a great extent present in our continent) is a spiritual worldview where demons are seen as active in people’s lives. The unknown was explained as demonic activity and there were even names for some of them (Matthew 12:22 ff). Now, I need to slow down here and say demonic activity may well be a reality but our worldview is different. We don’t explain phenomena in demonic terms. A person born blind today or suffering depression is not seen as demon possessed but as a physically or mentally challenged person in need of our love, care and support. That is not to say that demons do not exist but it is not the way we understand our world today.

We must be careful not to import the first century worldview to 21st century without any course correction. The gospel transcends all time and geography but not the worldviews. Deceptive Deliverance rides on a fear you have to sell you a solution to a problem you don’t really have at a price you can barely afford and does not eventually deliver (pun intended) on its promise.

The Deceptive Nature of Contemporary Deliverance Teaching

  1. Deceptive Deliverance points to another problem. Whereas the Bible shows us the real problem in our lives is sin and its effects in the world, those who hawk deliverance present another problem: the ill-motives of another rather than your own laziness, your ancestors rather than your own sin, the jealousy of your competitors (who are seen as enemies) rather than your own greed, demons rather than lust. The problem dear saint is not life circumstances but actually sin. The Bibles shows us that our real problem is sin in our hearts. Deliverance understates sin, emphasises the effects of sin and overstates its own solution. It is often an attempt to deal with a symptom and not the actual cause.

Application: Dear saint – sin is your biggest problem and the cause of all other problems – not childlessness, joblessness, joylessness or any other expression you might have in mind. This is not to minimize the other problems, but to show you what the big issue really is. Believers are grow in overcoming sin daily (sanctification) by feeding on the word, respond in trust and obedience. This will be a continuing work until the Lord returns.

  • Deceptive Deliverance presents another solution and not the gospel. Having misdiagnosed the problem, it is not any wonder this kind of teaching also misses the solution. Instead of the gospel, people are pointed to a man of God, to certain books, to a certain processes or certain prayers. Special rites are carried out in order to deal with the demons. In the Acts passage that I quoted earlier, the apostles are pre-occupied with one thing – teaching that Jesus is Lord and saviour. They are calling people to repentance and forgiveness of sins. They are not pointing anyone to themselves or their ministry but rather pointing to Christ. There is indeed no other solution God’s people for there is only one name by which people may be saved – the name of Jesus. I sometimes get people wanting to see me for special prayers or for mentoring but when we start looking at the gospel they lose interest because they wanted a quick fix. They wanted some magic wand to be waved before them on some incantations, words or phrases to be said. True ministers of the word have nothing to give but the gospel.

Application: Jesus is your saviour – He has already saved you. Colossians 1:13. To a church that was clearly battling false teaching, Paul pointed them to the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus. There is nothing else we need dear saints beyond Christ in us – the hope of glory.

  • Deceptive Deliverance undermines the scripture. In at least two ways the kind of deliverance ministry peddled today misses the timing of rescue and devalues sanctification as taught in the scriptures. The Bible teaches us that our big rescue is in the past – we have already been delivered from the kingdom of darkness. Look again with me in Colossians 1: 11-14. Paul speaks of deliverance as a done deal – the work of our redemption is complete. It is indeed finished and nothing else can or should be added to it. Deceptive deliverance implies that the work is incomplete and needs optional extras – prayers or special sessions. The bible teaches us we are to continually grow in Christlikeness and grace, to grow in overcoming sin, the world and the devil. Deceptive deliverance presents an instant solution to ongoing battles that Christians face. Instead of feeding on the word in order to grow, fellowshipping with other believers, walking in obedience, Deceptive deliverance creates its own problem and presents its own solution. No wonder it does not work and can only rely on subjective testimonies rather than the objective truth of scripture.

Application: The world is broken by sin (Genesis 3: 14 19) – we live between two worlds: the now and not yet. Sicknesses are here with us, accidents and all sorts of brokenness until the end of time.  We are to continually apply the gospel and to look at the world around us with the lens of scripture. We can do this in scripture reflection, in mentoring, biblical counseling, one-anothering, prayer etc. That is why we can boldly pray as the Lord taught us in Matthew 6 for his daily deliverance because it is fitting for children to ask their loving father for his daily rescue from the evil one.

Deception Looms Large

My friend from college always wanted to buy himself a good radio cassette player. It was the ambition of every young person to have a radio when I was growing up. You needed one to listen to music, listen to news and for most Kenyans to listen to general announcements and obituaries. (It is a Kenyan fascination to listen to obituaries or read them in the papers by the way to this day). This was before the days of the smart phone so the only way you got your dose of music or Salaams if you come from the other side of Kenya was having a radio. So as soon as our first government loan came though at Postbank, he rushed to Luthuli Avenue in Nairobi and came back smiling from ear to ear bearing what he thought was the radio that beats them all. Sony.

Now, my younger friends here might not appreciate the power of Sony. Sony ruled the electronics market in Kenya. It was an expensive brand that did more than deliver your favorite FM stations. It was the premium brand. It was a status symbol. It would also last a long time. But that was not the case for my friends newly acquired asset.

Turns out that when he went to the shop along Luthuli Avenue, he found people in the shop who looked like they were attendants and they showed him what looked like the Sony Radio he wanted all along. They then packaged the radio in a box and off he went. It is only when he got to campus that a few of us pointed that his was actually Sqny that he realised he might have been deceived. We asked him for the receipt but he said the attendant had given him a big discount off the original price and so had not been given a receipt. Sadly, my friend was stuck with an imitation that soon was not working and a government loan (HELB) that he is probably still servicing today.


Perhaps the story above is all too familiar. We have all heard this kind of stories before. The characters and the setting might be different but the content is often the same. This is because deception is all around us whether that will be fake products, fake news or false teaching.

The Bible takes false teaching quite seriously. There is hardly a subject dealt with as broadly and deeply throughout scripture as false teaching. We find it (implicitly and explicitly) in almost every book of the Bible. This because false teaching is serious, leads many astray, enslaves many to false demands, wastes many lives, ruins entire households and destroys the eternal destinies of many. The warnings are therefore many and severe because eternity is at stake. Unlike a fake radio or phone which one can learn their lesson and replace, false teaching can eternally lead people astray. The purpose of this sermon series then is to unmask false teaching in its various forms (shades) but more importantly to show us the true gospel of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ so that we may delight in Him as the only hope for our fallen world.

Come with us then as we dig into this big subject – a topical sermon series on deceptions. We have interspersed it with an expositional series through 1 John, a letter which is also big on false teaching. Please raise questions, comments and observations to help us in our teaching.

What is Deception?

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, deception is “the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid that which is false”. It can also be defined as “an act or statement which misleads, hides the truth or promotes a false idea.” In other words, it is knowingly misleading another person.

The classic example and certainly the root of all deception is in Genesis 3 where the serpent deceived the woman to eating the fruit of the tree of which God had commanded them not to eat. From that we can see a pattern of how deception works.

  1. A crafty character (cunning, one who has an agenda).
  2. Introduction of doubt (Did God really say?)
  3. Contradiction of God’s word (You will not surely die)
  4. Maligning of God’s character (God has kept good things from you)
  5. An appeal to felt needs/lust (good to look at, good for food, desirable for wisdom)

Deception by and large follows that pattern to this day. False teachers – like their father the devil, who is the father of all lies follow the same script. They are crafty and their agenda is to lead astray or to fulfil their greed for money or followers after themselves. They directly or indirectly introduce doubt on scripture or even out rightly deny it. They malign the character of God by pretending to know what is better for you than your creator and finally and most shamefully they appeal to your felt needs like food, beauty, esteem, knowledge, security etc.

Such was the message of the false prophets in the Old Testament for indeed deception is as old as mankind. Moses warns against them in Deuteronomy 18:20 ff

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.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 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.”

They were there in the days of Elijah and of David and of the prophets of old.

Prophet Jeremiah speaks against them in chapter 23 of his book, warning that they give false hope. They do not hear from the Lord and yet pretend to speak in His name. In Ezekiel’s days they were there too. He warns them of the coming judgement in Chapter 13:

Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. …6 They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.

Our Lord Jesus Christ warns against it (Matthew 7: 15 -20)

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits.

In many passages throughout the new testament, the warnings are loud and clear – beware of false teaching. Brothers and sisters, deception is a big deal and looms large.

In the passages that we have read today, we see the two foremost apostles of the church battling against deception. Peter says quite clearly in 2 Peter 2 verse 1 that there will be false teachers among you. Paul says in 2 Timothy 4: 3 -4

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

How them might we know of and be wary of deception. I will suggest three marks of Deception and close with what the Bible points us to do when caught up in false teaching.

  1. Deception presents a different Problem. Whereas the gospel shows us clearly that our problem and that of our world is sin, deception points everywhere else except our hearts. Because the aim of deception is to fulfil people’s desires (verse 2 – sensuality), the problem is elsewhere – in family background/childhood, birth order (first born – anger or control issues, middle child – esteem issues, last born – irresponsible etc). Deception points to your family history and tells you of generational curses (but never mentions generational blessing 😊). Deception points to your personality but never your sin. The gospel pin-points your problem and that of the world all around us – sin and the broken relationship with God.
  • Deception presents a different Solution. Since the source of our problem is not necessarily sin according to false teachers, then the solution is not peace with God through the saviour given to us in the gospel. This is most obvious mark of false teaching – denial of Christ (2 Peter 2:2). False teaching presents the man of God, a series of teachings, a deliverance process or special prayers/fasting as what is needed to solve your problem. There is always something else to do either instead of looking to Christ or in addition to Him. Deception takes away from the complete work of Christ on the cross and shifts to man-made myths and solutions.
  • Deceptions presents a different Authority. Rather than the Bible which is the authoritative, complete and sufficient word of God, deception relies on visions, dreams, words of knowledge, human wisdom and ideas. There is no laboring in the word for the Bible is merely a flower in the services. It will be twisted, misinterpreted or largely ignored. Deception will then be passed on through personal testimonies and marketing gimmicks of the day to get going – radio, TV, internet, building anticipation etc. Deception always presented as the latest, the newest and you are made to feel that you are missing out if you haven’t heard it. The Bible might be read but it never really leads the people or the preacher – the real authority is the preacher or prophet or that prayerful brother or sister.


  1. Beware of Deception: Christians are to be on their guard against false teaching and one of the best ways to do so is to be aware of its existence. The warnings throughout scripture are to inform us and to keep us alert that deception looms large. We are to guard our pulpits for even presumably good churches can easily slide into false teaching. Paul instructs young Timothy to be carefully watch his life and doctrine. Part of our duty in healthy church membership is to keep our elders on check. To gently ask them questions, but not treat churches like shops- walking away when something is not clear or is questionable. Normalise – double checking your pastors like the Bereans.
  2. Behold your saviour. The best way to guard against false teaching is to interact very deeply with the truth. There is no limit to the forms and versions of deceptions out there but the sure way to confront them all is by savoring our saviour. It is often said that those who check out currency spend years just looking at the original and if they spot a fake, they can tell it from a mile away. So it is with false teaching. If you spend too much time exploring false ideas, theologies, cults etc you will shipwreck your faith. Spend time in scriptures. Look at Jesus as given to us in Scripture. Normalise careful study of the Bible. Normalise regular participation in your GG.
  • Believe the gospel. At the heart of deception is a failure to take God at His word. Like we noticed at the beginning of this sermon, the enemy works by introducing doubt about God and His word. If our hearts are doubtful, then the ground is fertile for deception to take root. Unbelief is a serious issue in the Bible – our hearts easily stray from believing the good news of our salvation and turns to myths that promise what they cannot deliver. May the Lord help you and I to believe in Him and obey his word. Normalise taking God at His word.

In the name of God the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Separate from Each Other

Separated from each other

“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands).

Ephesians 2:11

The reality of human separation from each other goes back to the fall in Genesis 3. That reality is however still with us today as we see in racial, tribal and national hatred in our times. Human beings have hated each other and gone to great lengths to demonstrate it.

In this passage, Paul calls Ephesian believers to remember that they, were gentiles by birth and were called ‘uncircumcised’. The Jews had a very low opinion of Gentiles and viewed them as the lowest of the law. In his commentary of Ephesians, John Stott quotes William Barclay to express the depth of the separation.

‘The Jew had an immense contempt for the Gentile. The Gentiles, said the Jews, were created by God to be fuel for the fires of hell. God, they said, loves only Israel of all the nations that he had made …. It was not even lawful to render help to a gentile mother in her hour of sorest need, for that would simply be to bring another Gentile into the world. Until Christ came, the Gentiles were an object of contempt to the Jews. The barrier between them was absolute. If a Jewish boy married a Gentile girl, or if a Jewish girl married a Gentile boy, the funeral of that Jewish boy or girl was carried out. Such contact with a Gentile was the equivalent of death. [1]

But the hatred went both ways. The Gentile treated the Jews with similar if not more contempt. The Jews have been hated in much of human History having suffered genocides perhaps more than any other people in history in what is more recently called anti-Semitism.

But the division goes beyond Jews and Gentiles. All of humanity is broken by sin all the way from Genesis 3. We see evidence of that in wars, The transatlantic slave trade of the 16th and 17th Century, The Rwandese Genocide of 1994 where nearly a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed, The tribal clashes in our own country in 1992, 1997 and 2007 and in many other ways and places. We are broken as a society and almost always at war with each other.

If the imagery of the Jew-Gentile separation did not strike you, Paul uses the second imagery of the derogatory term ‘uncircumcised’. This term pointed to the uncultured outsiders who did not bear the covenant mark of membership in God’s family. Closer home, the idea of being uncircumcised is derogatory in most cultures. It is a term used to demean, despise, dehumanize, reject and exclude others. Such was your state and mine – hating and being hated.

Paul wants us to appreciate how wide and deep this division is because unless we appreciate the extent of the rot, we might not fully appreciate Christ’s unifying work on the cross.


[1] Stott, JRW The Message of Ephesians,1979 Nottingham, UK, Intervarsity Press. Page 91

Online Communion? No Thanks

Why are we not having communion?
Someone called me recently enquiring whether we should prepare for online celebration of the Lord’s supper now that yesterday was the last Sunday in April and as usual, we celebrate communion every last Sunday of the month. My answer was simple, perhaps because I had thought through the issue a month earlier but had not communicated to our wider church family: No, we will not be doing any ‘online communion’. Maybe that might come across as odd given that Work, Sermons, Giving, Bible Studies and a host of other things have gone ‘online’ why not Communion? I would like to answer this as simply and clearly as I can and so I will state 3 reasons why I think we should wait till when we can gather in person.
1. Gathering is essential to communion. The Lord in his providence has sovereignly allowed that we cannot gather in person due to public health measures instituted to stop the spread of COVID 19. This has meant that some of the things we should do and others we love to do cannot happen. Thankfully, and again in the Lord’s providence, we can still be spiritually nourished through the greatest resource we have as believers – the Bible which is accessible to all. We continue to feed on God’s word in our personal devotions and hopefully grow in our knowledge of Him. Further, it has been possible to hear God’s word through sermons and devotions through online platforms and for that we are very grateful. Communion however, by its own nature requires a gathering. Christ instituted it (Mark 14:12 -26 and Luke 22: 7-19) in the context of the old testament Passover meal to symbolically represent the new covenant. He was there in person and so were those ‘reclining at the table’. In His instructions on Communion, Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11: 17 -34, uses the word/idea of gathering/meeting at least five times and interestingly distinguishes the ‘food at home’ with communion twice (verse 22 and 34). Gathering then, is essential for us to say we are one body sharing one bread and blood of Jesus Christ. We don’t have to have communion at any cost – it is a memorial and it does not save in and of itself, therefore it can wait till when we can do it properly.

2. Waiting and longing for each other is part of God’s providence for us, for now. When for some reason we are separated from our loved ones we don’t have to create a semblance of still being together. Perhaps bringing the picture of marriage to the church, when a husband and wife are separated by distance due to some travel or illness, there is a lot that can be done over phone and email but nothing can replace their physical presence with each other. Such opportunities to be apart can serve the purpose of making them long for each other more, as the saying goes – distance makes the hearts grow fonder. When we try to replace every aspect of our ‘gathered essence’ with an online version then we might be raising the question of the usefulness of gatherings in the first place. I submit that although a lot can be done virtually, and we are grateful for technological advancements that make these things possible, not everything can be done online. The Lord himself expresses longing for it in Mark 14 ‘that he will not eat the fruit of the vine until in the new kingdom’ And if the Old Testament pattern of the annual Passover feast offers any guidance, then communion can wait for a much longer season. Certainly, the early church had ‘breaking of bread’ a lot more often (Acts 2:42) but there is no prescribed pattern on frequency leaving the matter to the wisdom of elders in every local church. For now, not being able to have communion serves, in the Lord’s providence, to help us long for each other and for a time we can see each other again – face to face and eat together.
3. Online communion sends an unintended message on the nature of the ‘body of Christ’ and creates potential confusion in future. From the beginning of the year we have been preaching through Israel’s journey from Egypt to Caanan in a series we are calling #TheDesertExperience. In both Exodus and Leviticus, we noticed that Yahweh is to be worshiped in a clearly defined way and on His own terms. This is a very instructive pattern on how worship services are to be run. There is a sense in which we need to be careful about being pragmatic/innovative about how we ‘do Church’. Just because something works does not mean it is necessarily right or true. Big questions then emerge around online communion like – who is in the body in an online breaking of bread? How is it defined? Who is it served and shared?

In an online set up, anyone can participate at any time in any location whether known to the rest of believers or not. Viewers coming in later can as well participate in their own time and in their own space and you don’t have to know anyone else who had participated. Is that really communion? Does that not make cheap, a means of grace provided for the enriching of the body (local church)? Does that not take away from the solemn nature of the assembly of God’s people and make light an ordinance instituted by Christ? Are we to take lightly Paul’s warning to those who partake of the Lord’s body and blood in an ‘unworthy manner’ (1 Cor 11:27-31).

Further questions also emerge. How far do you go with disembodied practices? Should we also expect online baptisms in the near future? Might we see online church discipline soon? These and more questions beg our understanding or lack thereof, of the nature of the church. The called-out community (ekklesia) is a real body of believers who have covenanted to follow Christ and to hold each other accountable through biblical eldership and practical membership. To imagine we can extrapolate family business of communion into the public square in a free for all online fashion is tantamount to offering communion elements in the open-air market or matatu stage and hawking it for all and sundry to take as they pass along.

How about when COVID 19 pandemic is over, how much confusion will there be around the nature of Holy Communion? Will anybody need to submit to a local church and receive instruction and discipline from the elders there, if they can be part of a virtual body. Is that a risk worth taking if only to give a semblance of ‘business as usual’ even in the unusual times we are living in? I don’t think so.

Now, I will close with a reminder that the mode, the frequency, the elements and the administration of Holy Communion are second order issues and for which there can be divergent opinion. The words often attributed to Augustine of Hippo come to mind – In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity and in all things, charity. I respect those who are persuaded otherwise and submit that it would serve the body of Christ better when the ordinances he instituted (Baptism and Holy Communion) are administered in a reverent, biblical and culturally sensitive manner.

I hope this clarifies the reason as a church we will wait to have Holy Communion when we gather again in person.

Rev. Harrison Mungai M,
Lead Pastor
GracePoint Church, Kikuyu.

A Biblical Response to the Resurgence of African Traditional Religious Practices Among Christians

Presentation at Africa International University Post Graduate Fellowship – 11th March 2020.

Rev. Harrison Mungai, GracePoint Church – Kikuyu.


The last 30 years have seen a major shift in the landscape of Christianity in Kenya. We have seen strong cultural movements emerging and attracting attention from the highest church offices in the land. Just this week Roman Catholic Church, through Cardinal John Njue issued a letter warning against a new grouping calling itself Gwata Ndai. The Presbyterian Church has been on the forefront in fighting against the ‘re-emerging’ cultural practices as well as other churches in Central Kenya.

To some extent, I want to state there is nothing new about this. As far back as 1920’s there was a rejection of ‘Western Christianity’ among most people groups in Kenya in groups such as Gikuyu Karing’a movement[1], emergence of African Instituted Churches ec. These groups were reacting against under-contextualization of the western missionaries to the local cultures. The 1969 Oathing ceremonies in Kikuyuland were a defining moment of cultural clash between Biblical Christians and Kikuyu cultural adherents (Mugikuyu Mukristiano kana Mukristiano Mugikuyu)

A number of aspects that define the landscape over the last 30 years comes to mind.

  1. Political pluralism/multi-party state (competitive politics)
  2. Breakdown of social structures and institutions.
  3. Economic meltdown and unemployment. Lack of faith in government
  4. Growth of information technology, mass media and international travel.
  5. Liberal thinking (Postmodernity), feminism, liberal sexual values, rejection of authority.
  6. Shift from collective/communal to personal/individual mindset.
  7. Liberalization of Christian ministry. Mystical authentication of ministry.
  8. Growth of false teaching. Prosperity Gospel. Syncretism.
  9. Shift from the authority of scripture to personalities/experiences.
  10. Growth of the mega church concept. Anonymity/privacy being a paramount value.


Whereas this list is not exhaustive, these factors have led to a loss of meaning to most people and they are now searching for meaning, identity, significance. This has especially hit men who feel ostracized in the community having lost their traditional place in the community and now they are reeling back to traditional cultural practices in search of their place. How has this manifested itself?

  1. Cultural Pride. Demonization of other cultures. Little understanding that culture is dynamic and indeed a global melting pot. Hypocrisy of advancing our own (using other’s tools) while demonizing others.
  2. Through syncretistic rites like ‘Mburi cia Kiama’ and ritualistic prayers/offerings that seem to have a redemptive agenda (Gukuura Marigithathi)
  3. Through declining church attendance, especially by men. Depiction of the church as a western culture (or Jewish) hence wanting our own ‘narrative’. Rejection of facts
  4. Through mainstreaming of teaching on cultural rites and practices on Radio and other conversations. Fear mongering about what might happen in the event of default.
  5. Through outright greed/commercialization of culture. EG Dowry is no longer a token of appreciation but bride-price. Real trading of people. New activities are invented to get money from others [Kamweretho, Kuhumba aciari nguo, Kuguranira maitu etc).


How might we respond? Acts 19.

  1. Re-defining the enemy. A call to understanding the real issue. Can I suggest that although all human cultures are fallen, culture is not the enemy. It can be an expression of the enemy at work but the real enemy is the darkness in the human heart, caused by sin. There is only one known way to deal with darkened hearts – the light of the gospel, presented in love for the people. We must be careful not to come across as resentful of people or to create a ‘we’ vs ‘they’ dynamic. It does not serve the gospel when we come across as ‘adversarial’ in our approach. Let us call our people to turn away from idols to the living God through careful contextualization. Tim Keller says when we over-contexulaise we make an idol of the host culture and when we under-contextualise, we make an idol of our own culture (Centre Church)


  1. Re-evangelising our people. A call to reaching our people afresh with the good news. The average parson on the street doesn’t understand the what the gospel is. Our biggest task in most of Kenya (85% Christian according to 2019 census!) is not unbelievers but lukewarm and nominal Christians. Translating our theology into the local dialects is an important task. Taking the gospel to vernacular stations is crucial. Starting podcasts and Youtube Channels around the gospel is crucial. Acts 19 (Paul in Ephesus gives us a helpful motif in engaging a culture)


  1. Re-discovering and proclaiming the gospel. A call to authentic gospel living and ecclesiology. The root for any lasting change in a community begins with a rediscovery of the gospel. Every move of God in History has been a back to the Bible movement. From the reformation in the 16th Century to the Awakenings in the 18th and the Revival movements in the 20th.


  • The gospel had already been in Ephesus. Verse 1
  • Paul taught in the synagogue for 3 months. (Persuading them Verse 8)
  • There was opposition (verse 9) Paul withdrew in the hall of Tyrannus
  • For 2 years until all in Asia heard.
  • There was pretence (sons of Sceva) but the gospel grew.
  • There was open opposition (riot)
  • There was ongoing fruit (Chapter 20 and the book of Ephesians)

May the Lord help us to be bold and witness his unchanging gospel to a changing world in the 21st Century.

[1] See Douglas Kiereini’s reflection here:

Sabbath Year and Jubilee

Sermon: GracePoint Church Kikuyu

Sunday 22nd March 2020

Text: Leviticus 25

Theme: The Sovereign God orders how His people are to live and rest.

Opening Statement.

We are living in a difficult time especially occasioned by the Novel Corona Virus. This ‘new’ infection has caused untold pain to many in the world with nearly ten thousand dead and many infected. It also has meant closed borders for many countries, closed schools and workplaces. The government has called upon us to exercise extra hygiene measures like more frequent handwashing, use of hand-sanitizers, avoiding public gatherings and self-isolation. All these are good measures to ‘flatten the curve’ or rather minimize the spread of this dangerous infection. In light of this, our body of elders found it necessary and wise not to gather in person today but to use technology to share the gospel with you. We certainly miss each other’s fellowship but rejoice in the almighty God who gives all things including science and technology that allows us to fellowship virtually.

Having said that, it might be helpful to mention that although the virus is being called ‘novel’ meaning ‘new’, there is nothing really new under the sun. Working from home or teaching children at home is not new – people have been working from home for much of human history. In fact, it can be said to be the normative way of life and work is more home based rather than away from home in a factory, an institution or business. Diseases have also ravaged generations in the past – The Antonine plague in Rome in the 2nd Century AD killed about 5M people  between 165 and 180 AD and another one followed between 250 and 271 killing so many (estimated to 5000 a day in Rome alone) that the African Bishop of Carthage (Cyprian) described it as the end of the world. The black death of the 14th century wiped out half of Europe’s population between 1346 -1353.  More recently the Spanish flu a hundred years ago (1918 -1920) affected 500 Million people and killed 50 Million, The Asian bird flu of 1958 claimed more than 1.1 Million lives including more than 100K in the US. Right now, HIV AIDS remains a global epidemic since when it was discovered in 1981 – more than 35 M people have died. Ebola, Zika Virus and others remain a threat to human life and flourishing. Praise God for the advances in Science and Technology that there are cures and vaccines for most of these plagues today. I pray that soon there will be a cure or a vaccine for COVID 2019. But it wont be the last one, if the Lord tarries.

I say these things not to minimize the threat of COVID 19 but indeed to allay your fears which have been greatly multiplied by the misinformation going round in these days of social media. My aim is to encourage your faith in the almighty God who does not change with the changing seasons of human experience.  May we be reminded of the sovereignty of God in this season and may that lead us not to hard-heartedness but to worship for whether we live or die, our hope is sure in Christ. The first question in our New City Catechism course, which we did on the first Sunday of this year, comes to mind:

Question 1 – What is our only hope in life and death?

That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters – The gospel gives us a firm assurance – whatever happens, we are Christ’s. May that give us confidence as we continue in this unusual season.

We are continue on in our journey following God’s people Israel through the Desert from Egypt to the Promised Land. Last Sunday we were reminded of God’s holiness and how we are to live as his holy people – in a sense separated from the world around us, the standard mark of quality for God’s people is holiness. Today we see how that theme of holiness works in the communal life of Israel through the institution of the sabbath year and the Jubilee.

The sabbath year – Chapter 25 Verse 1-7, (Deuteronomy 15)

The Lord commands his people that when they come to the land, they will observe a sabbath rest for the land. They will not sow or reap that year but the Lord would provide for them. That the land belongs to the Lord and he just gives it to them. They must never feel entitled to it or depend entirely on it, but rather on the Lord. They were essentially sojourners who had a ‘tenant-owner’ status of the land. Deuteronomy 15, speaking of the Sabbath year points three elements of social justice among God’s people.

  • Release of Debts. Israelites in debt are to be released from their obligation. It is interesting how lending is literally big business all over the world with little thought given to whether debt is good for human flourishing. Today, predatory lending happens in both small and large scale, confining millions to poverty. I shudder at the thought that many, if not all Francophone countries in Africa still owe Paris huge debts which they pay for being colonized, read as development done for them when the French ruled them.
  • Giving to the poor verse 7-11. It is striking to see the Lord say that there will always be poor people among you. Verse 11. God’s people were to give freely to the poor and to open their hand widely to your brother. How generous are you to the needy? Paul challenges us that a mark of true biblical ministry includes a genuine concern for the poor (Galatians 2:10)
  • Release of captives. Hebrew slaves were also to be set free verse 12. The way the economy worked then, dare I say even now was that there were slaves – less privileged labourers who were either sold into slavery or sold themselves.

The Jubilee year – 25:8 -end.

After every 7 weeks of years, God’s people were to have a Jubilee (50th year). The Jubilee was an enhanced sabbath year and had the following elements to it

  • Proclamation of liberty (Lev 25: 9)
  • Returning to ancestral land and clan (Lev 25:10)
  • Rest from all work (verse 11) (Echoing the fourth commandment)
  • Fair business dealings (Verse 13- 17)
  • Redemption of Property (23 -34)
  • Generosity to the poor Israelite (35 -46)
  • Redemption of Hebrew slaves (47 -55)

The purpose of the Jubilee, it seems to me from the passage was;

  • To remind the people that the Land was His. That the earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24). The land also needed rest from cultivation.
  • To Remind the people of their frailty – Their need to rest and trust in the Lord. We watch many super-power movies and we might have gotten the idea that we are invincible. In 2002, soon after I learnt how to print (rather belatedly) I typed out a song that was going round at the time – I am unbwogable. It was a political lie that has since been proven false. We have made the same mistakes of choosing corrupt and inept leaders over and over again.


Whereas the jubilee was indeed a great time for the nation to press the reset button every fifty years, It is interesting to notice that it was ethno-centric with no universal application. For instance, non-Hebrew slaves were not set free at Jubilee. Further, it did control human greed as we see the prophets later calling on Israel to act justly, to be merciful and kind (Isaiah 5:8, Micah 4:4, 6:8). Their disobedience led to judgement and they were exiled in Babylon for 70 years.


The Sabbath Year and The Jubilee Looked forward to a greater Jubilee – the real ‘year of the Lord’s favour’ that the Lord Jesus Christ would promulgate. In His declaration of mission in Luke 4 verse 18 and following Jesus says:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,  because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

If we read this passage from the beginning we notice some striking parallels and contrast. The context of the passage is Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth, the town where he had been brought up. It is on a sabbath day and he reads from Isaiah 61 and when he finishes says this scripture is fulfilled NOW. Nobody makes such a claim! The Messiah is here announcing the sabbath, proclaiming the gospel in all its elements to a bewildered crowd that will soon reject his message and ‘run him out of their town’

Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is the true sabbath. He is the one who has been anointed (set apart) to

  • Proclaim the gospel to the poor
  • Proclaim freedom for prisoners
  • Proclaim sight to the blind
  • Proclaim freedom to the oppressed
  • Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.


This is the true essence of Sabbath and Jubilee. A weary and confused world needed a saviour and the Lord sent one in the Lord Jesus Christ. He promises rest to the weary and burdened (Matthew 11:29) and the promise of eternal rest for God’s people stands.

Therefore remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:9 -11

In the name of the God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.