Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Church on the wheels (Part 1)

A good study of the first century church shows a lot of progress that the apostles made. In spite of the fact that they were introducing an entirely new system over an already existing old one, it is evident that they prospered. 3000 men gave their lives to the Lord the first day Peter preached. Later 5000 believed in Christ and the Lord continued to add to their number day by day those who were being saved. Both Jews and Gentiles were obedient to the faith. The church blossomed.

It was not a stagnant church. It was not a lukewarm church. It was a vibrant and dynamic church - always on the wheels. They were able to withstand, by the power of God, the challenges of their days and had something they kept for the subsequent generations.

Now, why and how did they succeed? What made them so prosperous? What did the apostles do that made them record such tremendous results? In trying to answer these questions, we shall consider the 7 things the apostolic church committed themselves to. For us to have similar results, we are expected to do what the apostles did.

• A church committed to God: The first thing we discover is that the members of the church were not just committed to the church religious practices. They were committed to God and His glory. They had vibrant personal relationships with the Lord, thus they were able to co-exist in love in their fellowships. Individual members having a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, through repentance to God and faith in Jesus Christ, is the only basis or foundation for a church having a cooperate relationship with the Lord. Organizational structures are useless, no matter how religious, if the members do not know God and pursue His glory. Our horizontal relationship with our fellow humans cannot be good when our vertical relationship with God has problems and vice versa. If a church is filled with people who do not know the Lord personally, it is going to be very difficult for it to pursue the glory of God. We find that in the early church, the people were totally sold out to God Himself. When they were imprisoned and beaten, they rejoiced and counted it as a privilege to suffer for the Lord. They were even ready to die if that was God’s will for them. It was a church made up of people that knew their God. No wonder they did exploits.

• A church committed to the Great Commission: Also the early church was committed to the preaching and spreading of the gospel. Having received the charge from the Lord to preach the Good News in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and the Gentile Nations of the world, they were all out to obey their Master. (See Mat.28:19 Mark 16:15). Peter was a married fisherman but he was involved. Barnabas was a rich man and yet he obeyed the commission. Luke was a Medical Doctor but became a missionary physician. Philemon and Onesiphorous were wealthy people and yet were committed to missions. Timothy was a young man and yet preached the gospel. Priscilla and Aquila was a couple that supported missions and gave out their house for fellowship. Throughout the Book of Acts, we see the early church on fire for the Lord. Men from different walks of life were committed to the preaching of the gospel. One thing is clear, whenever a church is distracted and is not committed to the vision of preaching the gospel and the expansion of the Kingdom, the devil will commit her with trivial issues, quarrels, division and politics.
Furthermore, the gospel was not just preached to fulfill all righteousness, it was preached with power and demonstration of the Spirit. (See 1 Thess.1:5; 1 Cor.1:24; Col.1:27 etc). It is a sin for a church to lack the power of God or to preach the gospel of God as if it has no power.

• A Church Committed to prayer: We equally notice that the church was a praying church. Jesus once threw away the money-changers out of the temple telling them that the temple was supposed to be a house of prayer. (Lk.19:45,46). The church is not a place where emphasis on money and earthly success should take upper hand. It must be made up of a people who have both private and cooperate altars – people that pray as individuals and together as a church. The apostles once decided on issues of priority saying “it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables…we will devote ourselves to prayer” (Acts 6:2, 4a. Also see Acts 12:5,12; 3:1; 16:13 etc). Paul gave testimonies of what his prayer life and that of those who worked with him was like. (See 2 Thess.1:11,12; 1 Thess.1:2,3; Col.4:12; 1:3,4; Eph.1:16-23 etc). In line with the Lord’s admonition in Luke 18:1, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint”, Paul urged the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”. (1 Thess.5:16). The early church was a praying church and members were involved. No wonder they experienced the power of prayer.

• A church committed to the Word of God: In Acts 6:2-4 as we noted above, another issue of priority the apostles decided was the Word of God. They said, “we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of God’s Word”. Christians were not lazy to study doctrines (See Acts 2:42). They were committed to both teaching and exhorting each other in their homes, house fellowships and in the temple. Many of the people following the apostles were determined to confirm what they were being taught by themselves like the Boreans (Acts 17:10-12). Members of the church were not slothful as we see today in most of our churches. They were not swallowing hook line and sinker what the preachers tell them. They were both individually and as a church committed to the study and obedience to the Word of God. Paul instructed Timothy, “Till I come, attend to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching, to teaching”. (1 Tim.4:13). There are plausible words of wisdom, the so-called ‘prosperity’ gospel, and peddlers of God’s word (2 Cor.2:17). Unfortunately, none of these can save a man from hell nor change his eternal destiny. The apostles majored on the things that matter. 1 Cor.2:12; 1:23-25. They preached the full gospel. If the Bible is not the sole guide for faith and practice for a church and its members, man-made traditions and vested interests will dominate and they will not be able to accomplish anything tangible for God.

To be continued...

Friday, 22 April 2011

'New Birth' without Repentance?

“19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” Acts 3:19 (KJV)

There are many things that keep me scared in the church today. As I listen to several preachers and teachers around us both from the pulpit and other media outlets, and then reading the preaching and teachings of the Apostles and several church fathers, I see a world of difference. One wonders why we are having different results from what they experienced. We live in a generation where sin is rarely mentioned and everybody is taught how to appropriate the blessings of God and live comfortable here on earth but no emphasis is made on how to live a life of victory over sin and self, which determines one’s eternal future. Nobody is saying that a Christian should not work hard and live comfortable here on earth as much as God allows him, but comfort should not be pursued at the expense of eternity. An ungodly life with all the wealth and comfort that this world can offer is wasted and doomed as long as the Kingdom of God is concerned. A life that is lived for pleasure and self has no hope and cannot end up in the bossom of the Lord no matter the positions and power it commanded on earth. Just being religious cannot make a soul experience "a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord".

The Apostles did not frequently use the word ‘born again’. Reading through the epistles, I have not seen anywhere where someone was asked “Are you born again?” But were people getting born again? Sure! Were people’s lives being changed? Sure! Were Christians living in victory over sin and self? Absolutely yes! Now, what is the difference between their preaching and ours today? What was the content of their message that we have abandoned today? I want to share just one of them.

The Apostles vigorously preached against sin and asked people to repent and be converted. As I just opened the Concordance and typed in the word ‘repent’, it came out to be a word that is widely spread through both the Old Testament and the New Testament. (See Acts 2: 38; 3:19; 8:2; 17:30; 26:20). I have asked myself several times, “Is it possible to get born again without repentance?” The answer is NO! But unfortunately, the kind of gospel we preach today seems to tell people that it’s possible to be ‘born again’, experience all the blessings of God without repentance. We invite people to give their lives to Jesus we have not told them Who He is or what He has done to save them. We only present Him as if He is a tool to be used to achieve our dreams. So after preaching about ‘reigning in life’, ‘how to dominate over others’ and ‘how to destroy all our enemies and win in the war over poverty etc’, we then tell them that they cannot experience the blessings except they get ‘born again’. They would walk the aisle and ‘give’ their lives to the Jesus they do not know. They only know Him as the One to help them achieve all the things mentioned to them. Hence you find Christians who confess being ‘born again’ doing all kinds of terrible things in their workplaces so as to make money. You meet Christians who are as hardened as a rock in the Churches who the Word of God does not shake. They speak the language, do the activities and pray all the prayers but their lives are not different from their average countrymen.

As if that is not enough, some pastors make them feel that all they care for is their money and some are even given positions of authority. By doing this, their hearts are deceived that all is well. They are puffed up and they close every door to humbling themselves in repentance to God. Some of them resort to doing everything possible to just make sure they defend and please the pastors thinking that doing so ultimately grants them favour before God. What a great deception! The pastors allow it so because it feeds their relevance and pays their bills.

Indeed, we are in deep trouble and I’m deeply scared! Sin is still sending many to Hell and nobody seems to be shouting on top of his voice for people to hear, “repent and be converted”.

For more information on the New Birth, download my book here free of charge. Or write me: chrisekwedam@gmail.com.


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Last Supper date??

I scanned thru this writeup last week but didn't really read it. However, I've taken my time to read it now.

“Professor Colin Humphreys, a scientist at the University of Cambridge, believes it is all due to a calendar mix-up -- and asserts his findings strengthen the case for finally introducing a fixed date for Easter.
Humphreys uses a combination of biblical, historical and astronomical research to try to pinpoint the precise nature and timing of Jesus's final meal with his disciples before his death.

Researchers have long been puzzled by an apparent inconsistency in the Bible.

While Matthew, Mark and Luke all say the Last Supper coincided with the start of the Jewish festival of Passover, John claims it took place before Passover”.

From here

For me, I do not have any problem with those who are doing research on these topics and their inferences. The Jewish Bible that we are using today as the OT has endured centuries of harsh criticisms but has come out strong as a historical compilation one can trust. And if the records therein are true as have been proved, then one can hang his/her life, both here and hereafter, on the God of Israel.

The records in the NT are fundamentally correct. A lot of other historical accounts confirm that. Hence, if the issues are fundamentally right and follows up the OT, in a progressive manner, then they can both be trusted.

As concerns the dates for Easter and Good Friday, I cannot argue with any man. That is why I do not want to be a theologian. I want to just do Biblical Studies if God gives me the opportunity to do it in an official form. There are a lot of garbages people debate over in Theological Studies, but in Biblical Studies, you study doctrines and teachings of the Bible. If you handle the Bible in a balanced manner, comparing Scripture with Scripture, all seeming controversies are sorted out. The Bible has not contradicted itself in any way. Yet, even difference in some interpretations has brought about a lot of denominations. But the beauty of our diversity is that we all agree and believe the fundamental teachings. I know that there have been enormous attempts to discredit the Bible but all archeological evidences continue to strengthen the Biblical records.

In conclusion, whether Jesus was arrested on Wed or Thurs does not bother me so much. They are among what we call the non-essentials. It has nothing to do to my salvation. The essential thing is that He died and rose again. He is alive. I can hang my life and future on Him.