Mid Week Reflection – True Gospel Love

Posted July 4, 2019 by mungaimacharia
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Mid-week Reflection 4th July 2019

Text: 3 John

Topic: What Does True Gospel Love Look Like?

When I was growing up, the Daily Nation used to run a comic strip series called ‘Love Is…’ I have since learnt that the cartoons were done by a New Zealand artist called Kim Grove initially for her future husband Roberto Casali. Kim tried to capture in a simple image and few words what love looks and many people looked forward to her various depictions of what it looks like to love your spouse. The Daily Nation no longer serializes ‘Love Is…’ but for fans out there, the cartoons are available online and on social media platforms.

In this rather short and snappy letter, John tells us what true love looks like and for clarity, he contrasts it with what it does not look like just so we are very clear. The letter is addressed to Gaius, a Christian brother who showed love and hospitality to believers (verse 5 – 7). It is likely that he is the same man commended by Paul in Romans 16:23 but Gaius was a common name and it is used severally in the New Testament. So what does true gospel love look like?

  1. Love is… Walking in the truth

John describes Gaius as one whom he loves in the truth. Truth and love go hand in hand because they are two sides of the same coin. There is no true love without love in truth. A man cannot truly be loving his wife if he is hiding certain things from her. We cannot merely know gospel truth and not lovingly tell it to our family, friends and neighbours. This is best demonstrated in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is both the personification (embodiment) of love and truth at the same time. John tells us in his gospel that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) and that greater love has no one than him (Christ) that he should lay down his life for us. (John 15:3). We err when we divorce love from truth. John tells Gaius that he has no greater joy than to know that his Children are walking in the truth. I think it is a great delight to know and walk in the gospel. It is a wonderful thing to hear of brethren you have not seen in a long time that they are still clear about the gospel and they are living it out. May the Lord help you and I to walk in the truth.

  1. Love is … Wishing others well

In verse 2 John prays for Gaius that all may go well with him, some translations render that as prosper, and that he may be in good health even as it goes well with his soul. I realise this is a rather uncomfortable phrase for most people as it has been abused by ‘prosperity false teachers’ to mean that God want us all to be wealthy, healthy and famous. What I see here is the elder wishing a dear brother well. There is nothing wrong with praying for the well being of the other. There is a big difference between praying and promising and what the elder is doing here is praying that all may be well with Gaius. This is no different from your prayers or mine.

That is not to mean that frustration, pain and suffering are eliminated, on the contrary they are part of the package of following Christ (John 15:20, 2Timothy 3:12). In fact if this Gaius is the same one in Acts 19:26, he would have known first-hand what it means to suffer for the gospel.

John wishes this beloved brother well. In verse 15, he wishes him peace. It is right to wish and indeed to pray for the well being of others. This is contrasted with a divisive character in the early church called Diotrephes who liked to put himself first . True Christian love puts others first and wishes them well. In fact, true love wishes other Christ, the epitome of our wellness and our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

  1. Love is … Generosity

Gaius is commended ‘for the faithful thing you do in your efforts for the brothers’. Gaius had shown hospitality to brethren who would have been itinerant evangelists or missionaries (for they have gone out for the sake of the name…verse 7). These brothers had testified of Gaius’ love for the church, demonstrated in Christian hospitality (verse 6). True love for the gospel is here depicted as faithful support for gospel work with our gifts. The elder says… ‘We ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth’. If this Gaius is the same one in Romans 16:23, clearly he was a generous man – hospitable to the whole church.

On the contrary, if we don’t really love the gospel we begin to compare more with Diotrephes – who is self-centered (likes to put himself first), rebellious (does not acknowledge our authority), malicious (talking wicked nonsense against us) and mean/stingy (he refuses to welcome the brothers, stops those who want to, and puts them out of the fellowship). You don’t want to identify with Diotrephes. But if you do in any sense, the surprising thing is, Diotrephes is in the church and if that in any way points to you or me, we need to repent.

Someone has said that you can give without loving but you can’t really love without giving. God himself so loved the world that he gave. Generosity is second nature to us when we truly love. It is effortless, lavish and other-centered. How does your love for the gospel measure up?

  1. Love is … Imitating the good example.

John warns Gaius against following the bad example of Diotrephes and encourages him to imitate the good example of another man named Demetrius. We do not know much about this man as his name comes up only twice in the NT, here and in Acts 19:24. Probably two people sharing the same name. If it is the same person, the Gospel had truly converted him from an idol designer working for the goddess Diana and trade unionist in charge Idol Developers Union of Ephesus to one who is commended by everyone even by Jesus himself (verse 12). We don’t know if it is the same person but clearly the man in 3 John 12 is an example to emulate. We are to follow the pattern of those who have gone ahead of us in faithfulness. The writer of Hebrews says in 6:12: “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”

Perhaps the question to ask is, as we follow the examples of those who have gone ahead of us; will others want to follow our example. Are we those who are commended even by Christ himself? The words of Steve Green’s song ‘Find us Faithful’ come to mind;

O may all who come behind us Find us faithful,
May the fire of our devotion Light their way.
May the footprints that we leave, Lead them to believe,
And the lives we live, Inspire them to obey.
O may all who come behind us, Find us faithful.

  1. Love is … Longing for one another

I particularly enjoy John’s writing because he is quite emotive in language. The gospel is not all knowing and doing and no feeling. On the contrary it is loaded with deep affections. In verse 13, John tells Gaius what I used to copy in my love letters in high school ‘I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I long to see you soon, and we will talk face to face’. You cant read those words and not be emotionally moved. Love is not merely a thought or idea it is indeed a deeply felt emotion. Love is a true longing for one another and a desire to talk face to face. There are no lone ranger Christians, we are called to be a community.

We live in a time when expressing emotions is frowned upon. Most of the appeal today is aimed at the head (knowledge) and hands (actions) and not much for the heart (affections). Granted, emotions have been abused in the past, especially by the charismatic movement where truth was/is reduced to mere feelings and subjective personal experiences. Emotions still have a place in our experience and expression of true gospel love. I long to see you, says the elder to Gaius.

In an age of social media, how refreshing it is to see brethren and talk face to face; real fellowship with real people. If we truly love God’s people we will long to meet them. We will not be giving up the habit of meeting together (Heb 10:25). Love is showing up. Love is greeting the brethren by name. Love is the gospel. The gospel is love.

mungaimacharia.com

 

 

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Idols of the Heart: Culture

Posted June 23, 2019 by mungaimacharia
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GracePoint Church, Kikuyu.

Sunday Sermon: 22nd June 2019

Idols of the Heart:  Culture [Mila na Desturi]

  • Earlier this week, we were about to set off on a long journey. A black cat crossed the road right in front of us. Rhodah noticed it and told me. We said nothing, completely ignoring it and proceeded with our journey but she and I knew what black cats crossing your path meant.
  • If you live in Kikuyu town, you know of the Mugumo Tree in the middle of the town. It is a big and rather messy tree in a built up area. Bird droppings from the tree really make a mess for the fruit sellers below. But the tree cannot be cut.
  • If you meet any ‘progressive’ Kenyan their name, they will probably give you only one name even though the average Kenyan has three names. But the friend does not want you to ‘profile’ them by their ethnicity. They are not keen on tribe being seen as their identity.

These three scenarios show us three aspects of culture – fear, reverence and identity. But what  is culture?

Sociologists have wrestled with that question for a long time. It is like a discussion of what is water between fish. This is because is basically everything around us. Our food, our values, interactions, our beliefs, how we live, work, dress, communicate and just about do everything is our culture. Perhaps the most helpful answer then has been – culture is a way of life.

We have been on the sermon series- idols of the heart and today we shall look at the idol of culture as manifested in beliefs and traditions (Mila na Desturi). We notice from earlier sermons that idols are the results of good things made into ultimate things. Instead of God being our ultimate reality and authority, our source of identity and significance, we craft idols to give us those things – Identity, Authority and Significance.

In the passage we have read today we see Jesus engaging with Pharisees and teachers of the law on cultural matters. The discussion in Mark 7 is set in the context of the two miracles of Chapter 6 both of which have echoes of Moses, the great lawgiver and cultural father of the Jewish people. Chapter 6, essentially helps us to see that someone greater than Moses is here, one who will transform our deformed cultures and reform our hearts back to God. 3 things to take away from the passage;

  1. Culture is a good part of creation order. God is the source of human way of life. He created us as male and female and designed how we are to live as men and women, he created government when he gave man dominion over the rest of the created order. He established marriage and family. He assigned places where people should live. He instituted work as a means of production. He gave laws through Moses establishing a culture of how his covenant people are to live. Culture is a good thing. V 10, 17 -20. Christ come into a human culture in a time and space of history.

 

Illustration: Can you imagine of the whole world was mono-cultural? So that everybody was Maasai or Kamba? Or all men? Or there was only one flower? And one animal? And  only one type of food?

  • Application: It is ok to accept who we are. Where we come from. The names we bear. All that identifies us under God. No one should put you down because of your gender, ethnicity, race, tribe or nationality. Tribe is not a dirty word or association for which we should be embarrassed. Real ethnic cohesion, happens not when we delete our tribes but when we acknowledge and appreciate the beauty and diversity of others.

 

  1. All human culture is fallen: The fall in Genesis 3 affected every part of our being. We see the Pharisee as a religious sect of the Jews. The 624 laws they created.
  2. They made their culture (ritual hand washing) the standard. Verse 2 – 5. Culture becomes an oppressive tool to judge others.
  3. They were hypocrites – having an external form of religion but no substance. Culture becomes an outside show but the heart is far away from the Lord. Matthew 23: 7 woes.
  4. Worship is an exercise in vain – teaching human rules. Abandoning the commands of God and holding on to human traditions.

 

  • Illustration: Not supporting parents in favour of giving to God. ‘Corban’. Dowry, an otherwise good value has been commercialized.
  • Application:
  1. Your culture and mine are fallen. Stop making your culture the standard. Watch out for your cultural blind spots. Appreciate other people’s culture. Circumcision, a respected cultural right of passage in some communities, has been reduced to a supremacy contest between those who cut and those who don’t. It is politicized and stripped of all meaning. FYI only about 30% of the world practice it. Repent your cultural supremacy attitudes. The gospel is not calling you to abandon your culture, but to stop idolising it.
  2. Watch out for hypocrisy, an inconsistency between faith and practice. We live in an age that values Form over substance. We care more about the label than the content. We choose a church often more on label rather than the gospel content and truth community we hope to find. We are more attracted to externalities like ‘presentation and packaging’ or professionalism in services rather than gospel content and centrality. Repent from your hypocrisy. Drop your mask.
  3. Worship in truth and spirit rather than forms and rituals. Steer away from fears and doubts about your future or children and raise them for Jesus. At the heart of ATR were rituals meant to protect individuals from evil. If Christ is sufficient then you don’t need any other ritual other than what he has commanded (Baptism and Holy Communion). You don’t need dedications or Redemption of Children, Tithes or Deliverance Prayers, You don’t need to seek ‘blessing’ from ancestors and the community. Turn away from empty rituals and turn to Christ..

 

  1. Christ is the redeemer of our fallen cultures. The problem lies deeper within.

In verse 14 -23 Jesus diagnose the real problem. Culture is only an outward expression of a more dangerous inward condition – the heart is sick.

Essentially what Jesus is saying is Culture is not the problem but actually a symptom. Nothing enters a person from outside makes him unclean. Food and drinks defile no one. Clothes and other cultural expressions in and of themselves are not a problem. The problem of idol worship already exists and lies deep within your heart. What we then see as cultural manifestation is evil thoughts, immorality, same sex relationships, adultery, greed, malice, slander, arrogance, foolishness etc. All these are, by default, dwelling in you and you come defiled.

We need a heart doctor.

In the following two stories we see Christ portrayed to us as the redeemer. A woman of mixed heritage had a sick daughter and he went to Jesus for help. The language of the passage is laced with cultural undertones (and possibly offensive) but the overriding message is Christ is Lord over culture will cross any cultural boundary to heal the broken and the needy. The chapter closes with the healing of a deaf man – it is noteworthy that it is in the region of Decapolis, a predominantly Greek region and heals a man in a rather cultural offensive way. Some observations;

  1. The cultural insiders (Pharisees) are left in their hypocrisy but a woman from Syria Phoenicia is helped. Her humility, rather than cultural supremacy is rewarded and her daughter healed.
  2. A man who was deaf and mute in another region, could not hear or speak like the Pharisees is healed. The cultural supremacists who could both hear and speak are left in their hypocrisy.
  3. The people were overwhelmed with amazement and wondered (Verse 37).

Who then is this man? Mark wants us to keep asking this question? The answer is He is Lord. He is the Messiah, the anointed one. The Lord over all human cultures and traditions – He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak. He is Lord – bow dowm your knee and worship him.

 

I close with the words of Paul, warning Christians in Colossae against idol worship of culture and traditions;

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces[a] of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh[b] was put off when you were circumcised by[c] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.[e]

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

 SDG.

MungaiMacharia.com  

The Death of Death

Posted November 20, 2018 by mungaimacharia
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Sermon Outline

Sunday 18th November 2018.

Text: 1 Corinthians 15: 35 – end.

Theme Sentence: Christians shall rise from the dead in a new body like Christ. Because Christ overcame death, Christians can stand firm and be fully committed to the Lord and His work.

Intro: Let me start today’s sermon on a rather personal note.  on 16th September 2005 I received what was the most devastating news in my life. My father had died only a week after escorting to travel to England to take up a ministry assignment. A few months before (11th March) He had been very proud of me during my graduation and was very supportive of my life and ministry. I was close to him a lot, was his lastborn, went to the same high school, took up the same profession as him (teaching) as him and showed interest in local church like he had. It was too much to take in.

Another death that hit me around that time, though not as hard but quite depressing was the sudden death of John Garang, then the leader of South Sudan on 30th July 2005. It seemed to me, the entire hope of a nation was dashed in that plane crash.

The pain of death of our loved one is very difficult to process. Suddenly life becomes meaningless and not worth living. Our mortality stares at us and we realise how weak we are. We deny, we get angry, we bargain, we get depressed and finally we accept the reality (and finality) of death.

Last Sunday we were reminded that, for the Christian death is not the end of the story. This life is not all there is – we shall be raised again to eternal life just like our Lord was raised. Today, we shall continue in that theme of resurrection and the implication for believers.

  1. We shall resurrect in glorious new bodies like Christ V35-53
  • A tale of two men.
  • Be found on the right man.
  • What passport do you hold?

 

  1. The death of death – Verse 54 – 57

– Death mocks us today.

– In Christ we shall mock death when Christ gives us victory.

– I am the resurrection and the life.

 

  1. Stand firm and serve! Verse 58
  • Let nothing you, not even death.
  • Give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, your labour in the Lord is not in vain.

 

Close.

 

The Grace of Giving

Posted September 15, 2018 by mungaimacharia
Categories: Uncategorized

2 Corinthians 8 & 9 are radical texts that confront our traditional views on Christian giving. This is especially because NT giving is different from the OT system of assorted sacrifices, tithes and offerings,. Paul tells us in verse 5 of chapter 8 that the Macedonians had first given themselves to the Lord and then their gifts followed.

We live in a world where gifts are an easy form of manipulation. People give in order to receive (the whole panda mbegu philosophy, peddled around by prosperity gospel preachers rides on that). When a gift precedes a relationship, a few questions emerge – is this genuine love or manipulation?  Is it an advance payment for an expected ‘blessing’ or an expression of gratitude for the gospel and hence a willingness to serve the Lord with our Time, Talents and Treasures?

Sadly, we bring these worldly views into our worship of God with our treasures.  We use tithes and offerings as ‘check boxes’ of our godliness or as means to another end rather than an overflow of gratitude for our relationship with the Lord. When relationship (redemption) comes before the gift, then quantities and ‘labels’ [tithe, offering, first fruit etc] do not matter anymore.  The gift can be everything (Acts 4:32ff) or almost nothing (2 Cor 8 2). It can be a tenth, a third, a half, everything or nothing.

Let me illustrate this. For two lovers, a straw of grass given will be treasured dearly just as a huge bouquet of roses. It is never about the size of the gift but a matter of the heart.  Sadly, we can be tempted to go about our relationship with God by sending our gifts before our hearts.  The Macedonian church teaches us otherwise. For God so loved that He gave

You might want to evaluate your own generosity in light of this. Verse 9 is a helpful reason for all that Paul had said before…’For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ….’ this really is the basis of all our stewardship. I call it the ‘acid test’ of our giving/serving motives. If it is not done in light of the gospel, then perhaps it is not worship.

Excel in this grace of giving.

Killing Sin

Posted September 11, 2018 by mungaimacharia
Categories: Uncategorized

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

Last Sunday we were reminded that our Christian journey is comparable to running a race. It calls for much self-discipline and commitment. And yet those are two words that hardly survive in our modern vocabulary. Discipline is almost a dirty word that many people would rather not talk about unless they are referring to children. Commitment is almost an alien word in our world today where everyone seems to be concerned about their own interests.

The gospel is however counter-cultural. As we learnt last Sunday, the gospel calls us to live differently to the culture around us in order to stand out and win others to Christ. It also calls us to identify with the culture – being all things to all people, in order to win others for Christ.

But the overriding message is one of ‘beating our bodies into subjection’. It is a call to kill sin and it is a call to every believer in Christ. In our journey of sanctification, we will need to know and indeed fight the three enemies of every Christian – the flesh, the world and the devil. The most insidious of these however is the flesh and we need to be aware of that. An old theologian called John Owen paraphrased those words of Paul in Romans 8: 12 as: Be killing sin or it will be killing you.

But how do we go about killing sin? Paul tells us exactly how in Colossians 3: 1 – 17

  1. Setting our hearts and minds on things above. V1
  2. Living in light of the coming judgement V6
  3. Putting off worldly practices v8 -9
  4. Putting on the new self v10
  5. Bearing fruit of the new self v11-14
  6. Letting the peace of Christ reign in your heart. V 15.
  7. Being grateful v16, 17
  8. Letting the word dwell richly in you. V16
  9. Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs v16
  10. Acting in the name of the Lord. V17.

 

Go on and fight sin in your life.

The Gospel Saves, Sustains and Secures.

Posted May 29, 2018 by mungaimacharia
Categories: Uncategorized

Sunday 27th May 2018.

GracePoint Church, Kikuyu

Series: 1 Corinthians.

Text: 1 Corinthians 1: 4-9

Theme: The Gospel Saves, Sustains and Secures.

Introduction.

When I was in high school I crafted a name and bestowed it on myself: Victor. A lot of the people who went to school with me still call me Vic and have no idea that it was not my official name. Nowhere in any official documents did the name Victor appear. I made it up when I entered form 1 and it stuck. When I think about it, there are a few reasons which could have led me to want a new name.

  • Teenage/Adolescence Identity Crisis. I wanted people to know me by a more colourful name, one that maybe spoke more positively into my future.
  • Hiding/Concealing the true me: Maybe I did not want the true ‘me’ to come out. Most likely I wanted to hide – after all I was many miles away from home (it was in the same county)
  • I wanted change, to break from my past. I craved a new ‘me’. Inwardly I wanted transformation and thought changing the label would do.

Like me, you probably have multiple identities but who are you primarily? What most defines you? What identity shapes your character most. The question of who we are is deep and speak volumes about us.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul opens with a surprising identity. As we saw last Sunday, He calls them God’s holy people, those sanctified in Christ even though when we read the rest of the letter we wonder whether those terms were really descriptive of them. In the verses we are considering today we see the dynamic that qualifies the use of the terms ‘holy’ and ‘sanctified’ the Gospel.

Teaching points

  1. The Gospel Saves – mliopokea neema katika Kristo. V 4 and 9

In a very interesting way Paul, opens and closes this section by stating the most important thing that the Corinthians needed to know – That they had received grace from God through Jesus Christ and that they had been brought into fellowship with God.

Paul is about to have a hard conversation Corinthians and begins by reminding them of their identity – they had received grace from God in Christ Jesus. The gospel had given them a new identity.  But the Corinthians also had other identities.

They could have taken pride in their Greek nationalism. After all the Greeks were the ‘cultured’ or ‘civilized’ people in Paul’s day. In fact, anyone who was not ‘Hellenized’ (the big word for Greek culture and way of life) was said to be ‘Barbarian’ – a rather unpleasant term that looked down upon others as unrefined in their way of life more or less like ungwana na ubara in the coast.

They could have taken pride in their education. Greeks were at the top of learning in their day. Greek thinking and Philosophy dominated the world at the time so much so that even after the Romans conquered them in battle, Greek education and influence continued. People, including Paul and all New Testament writers spoke Greek.

In Corinth, there could have been another source of pride. Their buildings and advanced architectural forms. To this day the Corinthian column stands as a memorial of Greek influence in building and construction.  People are very proud of buildings.

Corinth was also a port city. A lot of business happened there and certainly there could have been pride in business acumen. When Paul was there he did some work as a tent maker together with his Companions Aquila and Priscilla.

Those in Corinth who were feeling proud in their thinking (Chap 1 v29) are rebuked to remember that they have merely received grace from God and have nothing to boast about. They can only boast in the gospel (31). For there is nothing that they had that were not given to them (Chap 4:7).

What is it then, changes ordinary people, proud of their culture and achievements, lost in sin and self-centeredness, wallowing in rebellion and self-righteousness to be described as ‘holy’ and ‘sanctified’?

The gospel is the game changer.

In verse 4, Paul thanks God that the Corinthians had heard the gospel: ‘given grace in Christ Jesus’

Paul knew that because he had worked among them for 18 months and had seen fruit from that work. Those who had converted and become followers of Jesus now needed to know that their one, true and lasting identity was that they were recipients of Grace and their contribution to their salvation was nothing more than their dirty, sinful, rebellious souls.

Through the good news of Jesus Christ preached to them, they had received God’s unmerited favour and become Children of God. No longer were they primarily of Corinth but their citizenship was now in Heaven. Paul thanks God for the gospel as it had made them a new, holy, sanctified people of God. Now they had ‘fellowship with His son, Jesus Christ our Lord’ What a difference that makes!

Application1: The Gospel changes everything! Delight in it.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 

Ephesians 2:1 -10 (NIV)

Surely we were those who were lost. By God’s grace we have been found in Christ and brought to peace with God so that we can serve Him.  May we be challenged to know and delight in the gospel – Christ’s complete work, God’s grace revealed to us. Our only response is worship.

 

  1. The Gospel Sustains. V5 – 7

Paul reminds the church in Corinth that in Christ they have been given every spiritual gift. They are lacking in nothing. What good news to hear for every believer in Christ!

If pride was an issue among some of the Corinthians, no doubt a sense of inadequacy was also a reality. No wonder there were divisions among them as well as lawsuits. Some might have doubted their own spirituality and others about their status in life as single or married people. They sent some people from Chloe’s household (v11) to enquire from the apostle about these and other questions.

One of the greatest sources of discontent among people, even in a church family is low self-esteem. When we have a sense of inadequacy we become insecure and lack confidence. Paul remind Corinthians that in Christ they have everything they need. Nobody should intimidate them by a superior gift, by some new knowledge or wisdom because in Christ they have everything.

Application 2

Today, we need to hear the same message as the Corinthian church – that we are not lacking in anything as we eagerly await the return of our Lord. We don’t need a special prophet, or some special word or experience because we have Christ as fully and sufficiently revealed in Scripture.

That grace is available to us today. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness as we wait for our Lord.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Titus 2: 11 – 14 (ESV)

Illustration – Tim’s prayer in 2006 ‘Thank you Lord that we need nothing because in you we have everything’ I found it odd at the time. The gospel affects how we pray.

  1. The Gospel Secures V 8, 9

Paul reminds the Corinthians that the Lord will keep them firm to the end. V8 and 9a

If they had been saved by grace surely it will take the grace of God to sustain them. He says to them that God is faithful- who called them into fellowship with his son Jesus Christ

How will they stay on as God’s holy and sanctified people?

The question of assurance is big for every believer. No doubt the Corinthians wondered about their faith soon after the apostle had left. They needed clarity about a number of things and perhaps felt the need for the apostle to come back among them.

You know that feeling after a great spiritual experience may be after a challenge weekend in high school or after a conference or ‘revival meeting’. That longing to be with a mentor or a friend who has helped you though in some way. We feel needy and vulnerable. We wonder if we will survive. Will the new church hold or die off?

Confidence in our Christian walk can potentially come from many sources. It can falsely be on built around conversion experience, time (since our conversion/decision) gifts, fame (reputation) or the church we attend. Not so for Paul. Only the gospel will keep us going to the very end. Surely the way in is clearly the way on.

Sometimes we think we can ‘outgrow’ grace. Some have this false idea that we are saved by grace but sustained by good works. That is not the gospel. We will always need grace. Grace to follow, grace to serve, grace to love, grace to obey, grace to bear fruit.  it is grace through and through.

What a reminder that we need to hear in these shaky times! Our God is faithful through the changing times and seasons.

Application 3:

The Christian journey is a walk of faith, not one of morality or religious practice, it is only by grace that the Christian will conquer his or her enemies: the flesh, the world and the devil.

May we know that the Lord will sustain us to the end. The Christian hymn writer John Newton sang of the gospel in these amazing words ;

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Conclusion

The gospel is sufficient to secure us in Christ and present us blameless on the last day. May we delight in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ for it saves us, sustains us and secures us. May our identity be firm in the Lord.

 

Rev. Harrison Mungai Macharia

www.gracepointchurchkikuyu.org/blog

www.mungaimacharia.com

 

Preaching 1 Cor 1: 1- 3

Posted May 25, 2018 by mungaimacharia
Categories: Uncategorized

Theme Sentence: God calls His Church to be his sanctified people in Christ Jesus.

Intro: What is the nature of the church?

There is an article I came across recently that perhaps captures the state of the church in Kenya. The article is written by renowned Daily Nation columnist Josaya Wesonga titled ‘The Devil on the Cross: How the Church in Kenya lost its Religion’ It was published some time last year and it had the following to say about the church:

In Kenya Christian lexicon, “getting into ministry” is one of the most abused terms. “Getting into ministry” can be likened to a get-rich-quick scheme, with many broke and busted types taking this ministry route, not to fish for man, but for mammon…

 

Nowadays, politicians have taken the rule right out of Moi’s handbook; they have made it a habit of attending church services on Sunday, kneeling on the altar and being anointed, even if the previous day they were on a hate-mongering murderous mission.
When a leading minister was asked in 1992 which party he supported, he replied that the Bible instructed him to support AGIP, which was an acronym for “Any Government in Power”. However, supporting AGIP – aka Kanu – was a quid pro quo arrangement. In return for their support, these ministers and their ministries got land, miscellaneous state favours, unchecked access to State House, cash handouts and money during church-building harambees.

Reference: https://www.theelephant.info/features/2017/09/28/devil-on-the-cross-how-the-church-in-kenya-lost-its-religion/
According to Josaya and indeed many observers of the Kenyan church scene, the church has been on the decline. No longer is she the ‘pillar and foundation’ of truth or indeed the custodian of national values or its conscience. The same pursuit for power, wealth and fame that is found outside the church seems all too familiar inside.

 

There is no doubt that the church has been infiltrated by all kinds of imposters, false teaching, fascination with power, miracles and what is falsely known as knowledge or wisdom. In the letter we are starting today, we come across a church that was very much like the Kenyan church today. One that was riddled with false notions of power, divided over leadership, spiritual gifts and immorality among many other issues.

 

What does the Lord to say to such a church? today, we open Paul letter to the Corinthian Christians and see God’s view of the church.

 

  1. The church is called by God, belongs to God and is sustained by God.

 

It is easy to imagine that the church is just another social institution more or less like government, civil society organisation or even business. After all, it has structures that are somewhat similar to those institutions. When Paul says in Verse 2 ‘The church of God’ the idea here is one that ‘belongs to’ meaning that church is established by God to display His grace and power through the Cross. We must call to mind that the church does not exist by the will of man or the goodwill of any government but rather by the will of God. Two reasons are clear from the passage:

 

  • It is His because he owns it: Our Lord Jesus said in Mark’s Gospel that he will build his church. He bought it at a price and it firmly and surely belongs to Him. In Acts 20:28 Paul admonishes the Ephesian elders to: Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

 

  • It is His because He called it to being. God called the church into being. He is the primary and indeed the only actor in the establishment of the Church. Elsewhere in 1 Timothy 3:15 we learn that the church belongs to him and it is to be the pillar and foundation of Truth: if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

 

  • It is His because He feeds it. He calls the apostles to feed the church and in this passage we see Paul is called, by the will of God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. He is sent to proclaim the message and the Lord uses that as a foundation for the church in Corinth and indeed all over the world. Paul therefore has authority to teach us how the Church should look like, how her communal life should be and how those who belong in the church should live. We will be well advised to listen to him in the coming Chapters.

 

 

On many occasions in history, the church has been under serious threat both from inside and outside. Persecution in the Roman times threatened to extinguish it but the church thrives on. False teaching was a threat even in Paul’s day but the Church of Jesus Christ thrives on. The dark ages nearly extinguished the candle of the church but the Lord preserved the Gospel. Islamic expansion threatened the church with the sword but the church lives on. Western thought during the enlightenment dismissed the church as old myths of darkness but the gospel lives on. Communism threatened the church in China and the Soviet Union but today China has over 100 Million Christians. Brothers and sisters the church of Jesus Christ is no human institution.

 

The church is not ours. We cannot begin to imagine that we can own it or sustain. What a joy then that he uses mortal and feeble people to bring about His glory in the church. Let us not be anxious about the church. God himself is at work in His church and He will sustain it.

 

 

  1. The church is made up of sanctified people, called to be holy and united under the Lordship of Christ.

We find in verse 2 that the church is made up of sanctified people in Christ Jesus. The Church is called holy ‘set apart for the Lord’. There is an expectation for those who belong in the church. We are to be holy as the one who has called us is Holy. Paul addresses Corinthians as those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus. This speaks volumes about who belongs in His church.

 

It is striking how Paul in Verse 2 very specifically addresses his letter to an immediate audience in Corinth and to a wider audience all over the world. The people in Corinth were not random people, they were a real people who gathered in a real place in the Greek city of Corinth. The secondary hearers are you and I and others all over the world who call on the name of the Lord.

 

Two applications from this;

 

  • The church is local. There really is no such thing as a churchless Christian anymore than there can be a bodyless person. One must belong locally somewhere among a body of believers and play an active role in the welfare of the whole body. There is no room for spectators in the Church, we are all players. One cannot belong to some online community and call it church, or subscribe to some TV channel and call it their church. The Bible envisions a real community of sanctified people who gather regularly, in a given place for common worship.

 

  • The church is universal. The Lord is at work all over the world and throughout all generations reconciling people to Himself through Jesus Christ. We are united with others all over the world who call on the name of the Lord.

 

  • All are called and not just a few. There are really no special people in the body. There will be different roles but certainly the same Lord. Our distinguishing mark as Christians is not our denominational labels, style of worship, order of service or gift. The common denominator is this: Those who call on the name of the Lord. We can get the wrong idea about calling as being for a special few: Those who speak in tongues, those who preach, those who have had a very unique spiritual experience etc but that is not the case here: all Christians are called and sanctified in Christ Jesus as their Lord.

 

 

  1. The church is founded and sustained by grace and peace from God.

 

Paul prays for grace and peace for the Corinthian church in verse 3. This is what the church in Corinth so badly needed. When we think of what is to come in the rest of the letter, we cannot help but see how badly the church needed grace and peace from God.

 

We see the outworking of God’s grace in calling and sending the apostle (v1) who then founded the church as we read in Acts 18. Even more importantly we see this grace in Christ Jesus. It is striking that in the 3 verses Jesus Christ is mentioned at least 4 times and that should call us to attention.

There is no church apart from the grace of God which is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Cross Ref: [For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich… ] 2Cor 8:9

 

He himself, Jesus Christ is our peace. He has bridged the gap between us and God and made us into a community of God’s people. The gospel is indeed the foundation of all things Christian.

 

Ephesians 2:14-22 (NIV)

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

 

 

A few points to apply here

  • We are in by the Grace of God. It is purely by God’s goodness that we are His people. If we are not sure whether we are His, we can call upon His name today and be saved.
  • We are sustained by the grace of God. Paul’s prayer for Corinth is His prayer for GracePoint (those everywhere who call on the name of the Lord) – that Grace and Peace from our father and the Lord Jesus Christ may abound to us. Holiness will not be possible without the grace of God present among us and the peace from our God. If you are struggling in your walk with the Lord, you can call upon His name. His Grace is available to you.
  • We are to be a community of grace and peace. As those who have freely received grace and peace (reconciliation) we are to be a community of grace – loving one another, nourishing one another, submitting to godly leadership, united with one another, lovingly disciplining one another and together looking forward to the resurrection of the body.

 

Let us call upon the name of the Lord.

 

 

Amen.

 

Rev. Harrison Mungai Macharia.

www.gracepointkikuyu.org/blog

www.mungaimacharia.com