Leopard crossing a dirt road in Namibia

Thursday, April 17, 2014

THANK GOD FOR MAUNDY THURSDAY!

 MARK 14 

At Eastside Baptist Church we have been living in the Gospel of Mark, both in reading it in our morning services, and preaching from this Gospel on Sunday evenings.  Our desire is to   get to know or Lord Jesus as He is revealed to us in this gospel. [1] May the Holy Spirit be pleased to add to our knowledge the ability to see Christ for who He is? May our hearts be filled with  renewed gratitude , worship and  resolve to serve Him with a greater  devotion  as a result of this  special  time  on the Christian calendar .

Our Scripture reading  from Mark  chapter 14  on this Communion evening   takes us  to  the events  of the days and the  night  before the cross  of Christ  - the  night on which he  was betrayed by Judas .

The major theme of this  chapter  : Christ is coming to do that for which He was appointed. He comes to be the Passover Lamb.

We find the Old Testament imagery in Exodus 12. The blood of a lamb was to be applied to the door lintels of  the homes of every Hebrew family, presently in slavery in in Egypt. They must leave this land to go to the land of their promise.  Human sin stands in the way  yet again, by way of a stubborn Egyptian pharaoh. God will do whatever it takes to send His people on their  way to that country. With patience God speaks 9 times to Pharaoh by means of plagues.  Pharaoh will not listen, and so the 10th plague is decreed:  the death of every firstborn son in every household in Egypt! 
God however makes exclusion.  He commands the Israelites to institute a new commemorative feast,  which is called the Passover. The ritual is simple. Kill a young lamb, and apply its blood to the door lintels.  This would be the sign for the angel of death who would pass through Egypt that night, to pass over the homes of the Israelites.

It is amazing , is it not , that    God used this  ancient incident to prepare us for a far greater  deliverance-  for the world’s  deliverance  from  our  spiritual  Egypt, -  the world house of sin and slavery . This picture is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and all this rich Old Testament history and imagery now comes to a climax   here in Mark 14.
Jesus had prepared His disciples for this event on at least three occasions:   Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31 and Mark 10:33-34

In Chapter 14:1   we find the   great connection between Christ and   the Passover. Christ is the Passover Lamb. John saw this clearly when he said: “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1: 29, 36).  
The greater Passover Lamb must die!  Death is in the air! We see this already in the very first verse in Mark 14:1   where we are told: “the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest Him by stealth and kill Him.”   Their intent is clearly murderous. In that sense they become the image of Old Testament Pharaoh who designed evil and death for the Jews.   God however shall use this evil intent to bring about the most glorious story ever told!  God will deliver up His Son to evil men. He will  allow them to do what they want to do, but  in doing this   God will  count His  Life as  a  blood atonement  that will  redeem  all those in the world  that  believe  in the person and work of Christ , and God will  use this to judge  all those that stand indifferently or defiantly  against Christ !

The next thing that  happens  is  that Jesus gets  anointed at Bethany (14: 3-9) by  Mary , the sister of Lazarus and  Martha (John 12:3)  with a very costly  perfume . While some regard this as a “waste “Jesus sees this as anointing of His body for His funeral. Again, the fragrance of Christ’s death is in the air!  

Next we  find Judas,  who being  tempt by  the priests ,  promise to give him  money  in exchange for  betraying the  One who has been so  very good to him  (14: 10- 11)

The day of the unleavened bread which is closely associated with the Passover now follows.  This is the day and the night of Jesus betrayal!  On this day every Jewish house removes all evidences of any yeast (12:15) and eats unleavened bread only.  Yeast symbolically has the characteristics of sin. Once it is in the dough it spreads and it cannot be removed from the dough. The sin that has pervaded the nation of Israel (and the world) cannot be removed … except through the blood of Christ.

With Mark   14: 12 – 72   we find the   day which has sometimes been called "Maundy Thursday"[2] (see note). The remembrance of the historical Passover shall be central event of this day. In fact the Passover today will become much, much bigger in its significance! 

But where shall Jesus and the disciples find a place to celebrate the Passover?  

What unfolds now gives us a fascinating insight into Jesus   foreknowledge of events. We learn that there is nothing haphazard about this event. It is all    very carefully planned.  In 14: 12-31 Jesus gives the disciples as it were a foretaste of   the ‘divine agenda’:
 ·        A man carrying a jar of water will meet them in the city.
 ·        The man will tell them that he has a large upper room, ready for their Passover celebration.
 ·        Here Jesus will reveal that He shall be betrayed by one of the disciples.  He will predict that the disciples will in fact all fall away (14:27)   because it is written:   “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered” (Zech. 13:7). He also reveals (again) that He will be raised from the dead. He reveals that He would meet them again in Galilee (14:28). He foretells that Peter (amidst protestations) will fall away.
The rest of the chapter   reveals   at least three fulfilments of Jesus’ words:  
(i)                Verses  43 – 50  - Judas betrayal
(ii)              Verses 51 – 52  -  the young man    that  flees as  Jesus  is arrested ( probably  Mark  who is  illustrative of the disciples )
(iii)             Verses  66-72  - Peter denies Jesus

·       Following the Lord’s supper   Jesus and the disciples go out to the Mount of Olives Verses   in the garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus come here to pray, as He knows that the hour is now come. Verses   32- 42   show us that He is in deep distress. The depth of His soul agony we will never be able to understand. It  is  probably much worse than the physical  trauma  and pain which He  experiences  on Friday  when He is mocked , tortured and  crucified  (Mark 15) .

This is the day which we now remember …. Maundy Thursday
1.       It  was  all part of God’s plan   to  provide a  Lamb  whose blood  would  be  applied to  the lives of those  who  would believe  in God by  believing in the person and work of His Son . 
2.      In this plan He uses the wicked (like Judas) to do what they would have freely chosen to do.
3.      The sin of His redeemed  people’s  faithlessness  ( illustrated  by  the young disciple that ran away and  by Peter  who denied  Christ ) is  all covered  by  the  shed blood of Christ .  We are taught here that it is not our natural resolve to love God    that causes us to persevere, but the fact that   the Lamb’s   blood has been shed for us.

Praise God then for the active obedience of Christ, by which He secures our justification! Although the cross (Good Friday)  is that event where  His blood is shed and  where our  justification is ultimately secured,  Maundy Thursday is important , because here  the Old Testament  history  is   being    vindicated  , and the whole Bible as we hold it now in our hands  is proven to be the Word of God !

Thank God for Maundy Thursday!




[1] The most detailed  description  of the night  He was betrayed is found in John  Chapters 13-17
[2]  WIKIPEDIA :  Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John 13:34 by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

NAMIBIA AND NORTH KOREA

New Independence Museum built by NK
For a number of years now we have been observing  that North Koreans  have been used to  build  Namibian National symbols  such as the grandiose State House , a new Independence Museum and the   Heroes acre  in our capital city , Windhoek .

Given the fact that Namibia is a free  and democratic country,   it is ironic  that  we should  allow  an  oppressive, sinister   regime such as North Korea,    to  build  our national symbols of freedom.  

We have just heard that  North Korea  has  jailed and  possibly executed  33 Christians.
The Washington Times ( March 6th , 2014)  citing the South Korean  Daily Mail   carried the following  report :

North Korea tyrant Kim Jong-un has reportedly ordered that 33 Christians believed to be working alongside South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook be put to death.
Heroes Acre  Windhoek built by NK 
The South Korean missionary — who was arrested last year — and his accomplices have reportedly started 500 or so underground churches, Breitbart reported.
South Korean press cited by The Daily Mail reported that Mr. Kim has charged that the 33 are attempting to overthrow the government — the same accusation that led to the execution of the North Korean leader’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and all Mr. Jang’s relatives.
The missionary aides will be put to death in a cell of the State Security Department, The Daily Mail reported.
Their announced executions come just a day after reports surfaced that North Korea’s Number Two, Choe Ryong Hae, hasn’t been seen at several recent public events he normally would have attended — fueling talk that perhaps he’s the latest to be purged from Mr. Kim’s government.[1]

Kim Jong-un of North Korea
Surely, this is an outrage!   Namibia has a large professing  Christian majority  and  we  should not be silent on this matter. We know of course  that God will,   in His time, severely judge  North Korean dictator Kim  Jong-un  for  the murder of  Christ’s people,  but  we also  want to remind  our government that alliances  with  such  countries  will not leave us unscathed from the wrath of God.  [ Habakkuk 3:2]

Friday, March 7, 2014

Five Foundational Matters Which The Namibian Church Should Be Praying For At This Time

Yesterday  (06/03/2014)  the  Namibian  nation was called to prayer  by our President in response to a  series of cruel  murders  of young women  by their boyfriends.  We need  to understand that these murders are symptomatic of  what goes on in the heart  of our people. A mere  glimpse at the symptoms will not solve  our problems . The church has  two  powerful weapons by which she mat help the country :  (i) to preach the Word  ( ii) to pray  regularly  for the spiritual health  of the nation .  To be sure, prayer for our country needs to be an ongoing work of the church . 


Here are  5 foundational  considerations for  continued intercessory  prayer : 

1.  Pray  that  God would give  our   churches  the  ability to  see that  the neglect of  the Word of God and Prayer has indeed reaped grim  rewards. We have believed  the  lies of humanism, and its   doctrines  that teach  us to  rely on the wisdom of man  more than  the  wisdom of  the Word of God. For this we need to repent.

2. Pray that our  churches and nation  would see that  the  most basic and foundational  institution  upon earth – covenantal marriage,  the foundation of the family,  is  indeed God’s idea . This sacred institution has  been  spurned  by our generation and thus   has produced  this social chaos in which we now  find ourselves.  For this we need to repent.

3.  Pray  that we would see that  we have neglected our parental duties  towards  our children. Too many children in our country have grown  up without godly  nurture  and  instruction. Too many  children nowadays  grow up in single parent families,  or  are being raised  by  persons who are not their  parents.  We ought to repent  that we  have bought into  modern  humanistic  values that forbid  the parent to discipline their  child in biblical love.

4.  Pray that  the Namibian church  would wake up from its   non - commitment to the authority of God’s Word, and that preachers  would arise to  fearlessly  proclaim the  whole counsel of God,  speaking the truth in love.  Pray  that God would  forgive the church  for her many sins  and restore her ( 2 Chronicles  7:14)

5. Pray that the Namibian government   would   have the wisdom to keep all  immoral   and subversive forces out of the land, and to firmly punish  all evil doers   and murderers appropriately and in such a way so as to  discourage any further acts of violence.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

6th of March 2014 - A Day of National Prayer!


When last have you heard of a President of any country who in response to calamity calls his nation to prayer?

President Hifikepunye Pohamba has dared to do this, against the background of media ridicule and cajoling .

Namibia is currently in the grip of a spate of angry men who kill their girlfriends, and it is continuing. This morning’s newspaper (The Namibian 05/03/2014) reports of yet again another such murder. A man stabbed his girlfriend to death in cold blood while her children were watching. This is incident number 10 since the beginning of the year !

Our president is concerned, and so should we. I have done some analysis of the ‘angry Namibian man syndrome’ in my last blog post.

There are historical precedents for calling a nation to prayer such as was the case in the days of John Wesley , the famous Methodist Preacher who tells us in his journal of a deliverance in 1756. The king of England called for a day of solemn prayer and fasting because of a threatened invasion by France.

Wesley wrote: “The fast was a glorious day, such as London has scarce seen since the restoration. Every church in the city was more than full, and a solemn seriousness sat on every face. Surely God heareth prayer, and there will yet be a lengthening of our tranquility. He added later in a footnote: “Humility was turned into national rejoicing for the threatened invasion by the French was averted.”

Below also  find an example of a proclamation and a call to national prayer and fasting in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, the president of the USA. 

If you are in Windhoek , please feel free to join us  on THURSDAY , 6th March 2014  for  an hour of prayer at Eastside Baptist Church  between 18h00 and 19h00  as  we intercede  with the church at large  for our nation .

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By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation
Whereas the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the supreme authority and just government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations, has by a resolution requested the President to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation; and
Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord;
And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do by this my proclamation designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite at their several places of public worship and their respective homes in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the divine teachings that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 30th day of March, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State .


Monday, February 24, 2014

NAMIBIA - A NATION OF SICK MEN ?

Today’s  headlines ( 24/02/2014) in   The Namibian” carried the title, “Nation of sick men written by Shinovene Immanuel and  Nomhle Kangootui.

This headline  comes  in response  to  the ninth killing  this year, and the sixth in about three weeks  of women  by their boyfriends.  The last killing, on Saturday   was said to  be  a 33 year old  Motswana  woman  who was  stabbed nine times and who had her throat slit in her flat at the Paulinium  Seminary. It was said that she was studying to become a pastor.

The article reminded us  that this gruesome murder came  hours after President Pohamba’s call, during a cabinet meeting on Friday, for a day of   national prayer.  He declared the 6th of  March as the National Prayer day.   Our church will  certainly join this initiative !

What  then shall we say?

Clearly, all this  deeply troubling. The   blood of these nine murdered women cries out from the ground. The heart of the nation  is  laid bare  at such times.  Deep anger  is expressed  and scape goats  are sought. The government is blamed, and  the church is blamed. Much heat and little light  is generally shed  on the true causes  of  such atrocities. The Namibian  Newspaper allowed  someone in their ranks to vent  their (uncontrolled) anger   against our President’s  call to prayer on the front page.  The article  (found below for your interest and information )  reflects  anger  upon anger. We are dealing here with an angry  newspaper  editor and  an   angry nation!

Back to the horrible murders. What shall  we  say about  the murderers? Our  psychologically  conditioned  society  says:   “These are  sick men!”  Sickness is thus  blamed for their actions, and if you take that  thought further, you could say , “their  sickness made them do it!”  That gives them sort of an excuse, doesn’t it ?

Here’s where Christian wisdom comes in. Biblically  we would not call them sick men.  These are angry men  who did this.  Anger is a sinful emotion,  which when not controlled   leads to all sorts  of pathological problems. The Bible  wisely observes : “Do not let  the sun  go down on your anger , and give no opportunity to the devil “ (Ephesians  4:27).  Well, clearly the  devil has had his day! He has found another  member of the human race  willing to perpetrate  a crime  which,  according to the Scriptures,  is worthy of the death penalty!

 “Why are these men angry?”  I remind you that we all  get angry at times. But  we, who come from  healthy  Christian families learn to control our anger.  I can assure you that these men did not do  this on the spur of a moment. Their hearts  were already filled with so much  accumulated anger, that  the argument   which they had  with their so- called girlfriends  was merely the straw that broke the camel’s  back. 

Much more needs to be said as  to why  there are so many angry men in our nation. Here are  a few  considerations  which contribute to  our understanding of the “angry man  syndrome” . These considerations  are rarely, if ever,   discussed in the media :

1.      Men, when they were young boys,  were not helped  by their families to deal with their anger. Absent fathers and mothers  are the curse of our nation.
2.       Anger is a most destructive emotion. Bottled  up anger  leads to  all sorts  of  societal  problems: suicide , murder , alcoholism , drugs etc.  
3.       Systematic biblical teaching  and application in the home and in the church on the subject of    proper relationships  and  the dealing with the emotions  ( including anger)   would certainly have  helped such men.
4.      Men  are often  provoked  by  the  vicious , uncontrolled tongue of a woman. A woman can drive a man to insanity.  When provoked,  men   tend to be physically violent . The woman by contrast, lacking physical strength   provokes with the tongue, and the tongue is a small  instrument that  has often set the world on fire!  Having said this, it  does not excuse  such  a  horrible deed, but it must be considered  as a factor.
5.       The marginalization of men  and the constant ridiculing and downplaying  of the male figure in our society  is  beginning to reap bitter   consequences.  The Ndeshi and Jakes column in the Namibian newspaper bears eloquent  testimony to that. Jakes clearly  is the ever  stupid  male!
6.      The  current   ‘gender  agenda’   blurs the  distinct  identity  and traditional roles   of  male and female. It  generally  favours women.  Men grow silently angry and frustrated in the process.    
7.       The Bible has amazing wisdom  to offer  concerning  the healthy  interaction between men and women. Men are called to be Christ-like  loving leaders , and women are called to be  Christ-like  partners . That is the secret ! And it really works .

The question I have  is this : Are Namibians willing to  listen to the wisdom of the Word of God?  You may be surprised  to find  the answers  here to your ultimate questions!
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Here is the article on the front page of “ The Namibian” (24/02/2014)   by  an unknown  writer . I  have expressed my surprise and disgust to the Editor of the Namibian for such  poor journalism.  

God Save us from Who?
IF OUR government is in such a hopeless state that President Hifikepunye Pohamba, his entire cabinet and the Swapo Politburo call for divine intervention to solve a nationwide problem then Namibians should be very worried.

The declaration of 6 March 2014, a Thursday, as a national day of prayers is nothing short of government’s acceptance that the politicians, who we voted into power, are overwhelmed by the challenges and have failed the masses.

Most worryingly, not only has the President, the cabinet and Swapo disregarded the very Constitution they enacted and which they are sworn to defending, but may well have sown the seeds for religious fundamentalism.

In a country founded on the principles of secularism, it is worth posing the questions: What god are we calling on for divine intervention? Whose god do we pray to? Who should people pray for [victims, criminals, would-be victims and would-be criminals we assume]? How far will the state take religion and religious interventionism now that the government brings the country to a standstill in order to pray?

Needless to say, the agnostics and atheists have been cast aside from this equation.

It may not be obvious now, but many moons down the line different religious groups (including the dominant ones such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism in our part of the world) and their different denominations would most likely begin fighting for turf.

Where religion predominates, and different sects start to demand control, views harden, killings and violence become the order of life. Evidence of religion-driven violence abound in the United States of America, China, India, Palestine and Israel, Afghanistan, Nigeria, the Sudans and the Central African Republic.

To the contrary, no proof exist that the absence of religion is the cause for common crimes such as murder and theft.

Our government will be better served by sticking to defending the Constitution in its totality and tackling challenges facing Namibians head-on without having to take a day off for prayers.

Besides, the rot is at the top where several leaders have publicly and privately been implicated in cases of violence against women and children (both domestic and in public).

President Pohamba has listed 13 points, including the day of prayers, as actions his government needs to take. How cynical!

All of those could have been acted upon many years ago – violence against women and children is an old problem in our country. Some, such as the proliferation of alcohol and drug consumption, have been ignored and tacitly encouraged over the years.

A crucial catalyst for despair and lawlessness – poverty in the land of plenty – does not even get a mention.

It is not the political leaders’ place to lead religious activities. And there’s nothing wrong with our Constitution. In the absence of complete capitulation, therefore, they must do to the job [fulfil promises] based on what they convinced Namibians to vote for them.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

BAPTISM IS NOT ABOUT YOU – IT’ S ALL ABOUT JESUS!

Some time ago,  as I was reflecting  upon the Scriptures  in preparation for  the  baptism of one of our  members concerning the meaning of baptism,  I was  struck by this awesome   truth:  “Baptism is not  about yourself  - it’s all about Jesus!”
Let me  explain.

For years  I have  now observed that people in our circles  very  often   tend  to  approach  the matter  of baptism   from   a subjective point of view – from the  point of “me”  - how I feel about  it, and what my church tradition has said about it -   rather than  submitting to the plain teaching  and command of Christ in this matter.  

The imperative  of baptism [1] is trivialized when we  make  baptism  a subjective  matter.  Typical language  which reflects this subjective  mindset  is  reflected by words such as these:  “I feel  that I need  (or need not) be baptized “.  The thought patterns  behind these  feelings  are varied :

  • Someone  feels the  pressure of baptism  in accordance with  the rules of the church / or even perhaps  of  the Scriptures themselves . Others feel that they will not be pressured by the rules  of the church or even  by Scripture .
  • Some  feel that their infant baptism  is a true baptism,  irrespective of what Scripture teaches, or what the Lord Jesus has commanded and practiced Himself.
  • Others  who  have been baptized as babies will feel that they will go against their parents  commitment by being baptized again  as adults .
  • Others feel embarrassed  by the thought that they should stand before a church and give testimony to their faith. On this basis  a number of people have refused  to be baptized.
  • Some may feel  since  “so and so”  is also not yet baptized as a believer,  they also  have a warrant to ignore the doctrine of baptism.
  • Still others   say : “Well, I have seen people  baptized  and a number  of those  I have seen baptized have fallen away  and therefore  I feel  that baptism isn’t that significant  after all.
  • Others may say the same thing in a different way : “I don’t feel that  I should be baptized  – just now I will fall away.“  It goes without saying that baptism should  never  be  considered  lightly . It  should  only be considered  by those that  have truly been born again.
Let me stop here  and point out  that at every point  people engage  in inward conversation  and it is all very feeling centered and in the  end the doctrine of baptism  is “all about me “.

I challenge you to re-think  your approach  to  the  matter of  baptism, by putting the Lord Jesus  and His Word at the center of your thinking and feeling.

I want to show you from the Scriptures  that  if you are a true Christian  baptism is not about you . It is even less about how you feel about it. It is all about  God and His Son Jesus and  what He has commanded YOU concerning it !

BAPTISM : ESSENTIAL OR NON-ESSENTIAL  TO SALVATION ? 

Before   I   move on   I must settle one more matter. Many good Christian people point out that baptism  is not essential to salvation. So it is! However, just because it is not essential to salvation,  some  have  concluded that it is optional, and therefore it is said  (quietly to yourself)  that you can make up your mind concerning it.    I submit  that is not a helpful conclusion at all. True, baptism in and of itself  does not save. However,  New  Testament baptism is always connected to salvation. Those that believe are baptized! They are not  saved because they are baptized. They are  baptized  because they are saved!  So we cannot  separate  salvation from baptism, even though we need to be careful not  to invert  the  order.  The New Testament  pattern is this: Baptism always follows  salvation, and in that sense it is important that we obediently observe the pattern  given us in the Scriptures.Let no man separate what God has joined together !

FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS                        

I challenge you to stop right here  and to  ask yourself  what you would  do with the fact that  Jesus Himself was baptized ? [2]
What do you do  with the  fact that  He commanded  all that  would believe  upon Him to be baptized ? [3]
What do you make of the fact that  membership in the New Testament Church  knows nothing of ‘un-baptized believers ‘?
What about the fact that baptism is  so closely connected  to conversion?[4]

 BAPTISM IS GIVING GLORY TO GOD !

I want you to see  that baptism is not about you  - it’s all about the glory of Jesus  in your baptism. God receives the glory  when you are baptized, because you are His work of grace.
If per chance you had decided to get converted, then it might be reasonable  to expect that you might also decide  to be baptized  or  not to be baptized. But you know better.

Just as little as you did not give birth to yourself, you certainly weren’t born again by your own decision[5].  God the Father  chose you [6]; Jesus paid the price  of your sin [7]; the Holy Spirit  made you alive  even when you were dead in your sins and transgressions[8] .
Your salvation is all of God – therefore  your baptism  should be   a testimony   to  the glory of God.  Your baptism is not about you. Your baptism is not  simply to provide you with a ‘heavenly insurance policy’  or to  satisfy the tradition or expectations   of the church or  to fulfill requirements for church membership.

What we  in our church are saying to you is this:  We  require you  to give glory  to God  for your  salvation in your  baptism.  It is  all about  Him!

FOUR WAYS  IN WHICH YOU WILL GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR BAPTISM 

1.  You will glorify  God through your obedience. Whenever you obey what He commands, you give glory to God. So when He says,  “Repent… be baptized”, then you not only obey His Word, but you obey Him. It is not just  something that you feel strongly about ( you may actually not feel it!)  but   it  is a principled, outward demonstration of obedience. This brings glory to God.

2.   You will glorify  God  through   proclaiming His forgiveness. When you are baptized, you say to the world : “God has  dealt with my sin.  I am forgiven. I did not forgive myself. God forgave me! All glory to God !  It’s all about God.

3.  You will glorify God  through  manifesting the new life which you have received! When you become a Christian, you inherit   new life  and  a new citizenship. You  have become a new creation[9] . To this you testify in your baptism.  Could there be a  better  outward testimony  of such an inward spiritual change ?  The new believer goes down into the water, and rises out of the water, illustrating that the old things are dead and buried.  Rising out of the water  the new believer says “…everything has become new“.  Through  believers baptism you praise God for  your new life  and the people who witness your baptism see that  and  they praise God  for what they see. Outsiders  see that and  they are helped  to understand  the meaning of true conversion  in a powerful way. Glory is brought  to God   in every way. Ask yourself:  How  could  infant baptism possibly  illustrate this  symbolic  burial and resurrection?   

4.  You will glorify God by identifying with  Christ and  the body of Christ! Baptism  not only means identification with Christ and with that which Christ has done for us  in His death, burial and resurrection .  In baptism  you  are also baptized into that which Jesus loves most – His body - the church.  That is why in our church  we will not consider baptizing people  without receiving them also into membership .  Just as little as you can separate husband and wife, can you separate  Christ and His church.[10]   By one Spirit we are baptized into one body [11] .  We consciously follow the Lamb in the fellowship of  His church – our baptized brothers and sisters. It’s all about Him  and not about ourselves !

Therefore, let us never forget  that baptism  was commanded  by Christ, and it is  an ordinance  for all His  New Testament  people.  So if  you consider yourself a true believer  then you  would want to obey Him.  It’s not about you. It is all about Jesus !





[1] Matthew 28:18-20
[2] Matthew  3:13-17
[3] Matthew  28:18-20
[4] Acts  2:38-41
[5] John  1:12,13
[6] Ephesians 1:4
[7] Ephesians 1:7
[8] Ephesians 2:5  cf.  John 3:1-8
[9]  2 Corinthians 5:7
[10]  Ephesians  5:22ff
[11]  1 Corinthians  12:13

Thursday, January 9, 2014

START YOUR CHURCH YEAR WITH PRAYER


“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.”  (Proverbs 16:3)

The beginning of a year is often dedicated to   the making of resolutions and commitments – many which are abandoned before the month is half begun.  In our heart we have desires to be better men and women; we have desires to be more effective men and women.  The same goes for our churches. We desire to be better and more effective churches.  There is nothing wrong with that in itself, except that we are easily prone to make our desires for personal goodness and effectiveness   the all-important goal. Any Bible reading, God pursuing, maturing Christian should know by now that the pursuit of goals that are divested from the LORD our God   is nothing but products of an idolatrous heart. We want to avoid that at all costs. God help us not to waste precious time in pursuing prayer-less plans.
So how do we avoid that? Start your church year with prayer. Here is what we do at Eastside Baptist Church and we share this for what it’s worth:

1. Dedicate the entire month of January to prayer, reflection and planning for the year ahead.  

2. All our various church departments are asked to prayerfully evaluate and plan for the year ahead. No midweek activities (home fellowships, small groups, school of the Bible) happen in this time. All is subject to prayer and scrutiny.  

3.  Our preaching in January is focused on the subject of prayer.

4.The last week of the month is a dedicated prayer week, where the congregation comes together every week night to pray for an hour.  This year we will read through the 5 chapters of First John. The Scripture forms our basis for prayer, and a prayer bulletin will set the prayer agenda for each evening.  

Our prayer week normally has a good attendance.   

The theological principle behind ‘wasting a whole month in prayer‘ is this:

1. God is honoured. He gets the firstfruits of our year and we get the blessings of true fruitfulness. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33) The kingdom of God is advanced while we are ‘resting’ in prayer. Truly, the Holy Spirit can do more in 5 minutes than we will do in 50 years!

2.      God helps us not to be anxious about the year ahead and he helps us to distinguish between the good and the best for our church. “Martha, Marta, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Lk. 10:41,42)  So, we are helped not to waste time with unnecessary   church activities.  

Postscript : This  does not  mean that prayer  is now over for the rest of the year. Not  at all! The church has been reminded  of the fact that  she needs to learn to abide in Christ ( John 15:1-7), for apart from Him she can do nothing. The  many and varied activities   of the church begin now, as the church prayer meeting continues to be  a  core activity of the church.  


PRAYER  IS THE LANGUAGE OF  DEPENDENCE ON GOD. THAT IS WHAT WE WERE CREATED FOR   AND THEREFORE THIS IS THE LANGUAGE WHICH WE MUST LEARN !