6 Reasons Why You Should Love Christmas- Part 2

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This is the second post following up on the last one Here where we saw 3 reasons. Today, we look at 3 more;

4. It Rebukes Your Worldliness

One unfortunate thing associated with this season is a growth in worldliness. But as for you Christian, learn from Jesus who, his becoming man didn’t change his being God nor did he fit in with the establishment. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedience to death – even death on a cross! ” Phil. 2:5-8.

Our Saviour came as a meek servant-king whose aim was not to be served but to serve- laying down his life for sinful humanity. His humility didn’t take away his deity. He suffered, endured and died, obeying his Father (doing his Father’s will) for the salvation of sinful humanity.

The Christmas season then is a time of reflection and thinking of what our servant-king has done for us and living to be like him. Instead of wallowing in worldly living, we embrace humility because that is the way of our Saviour. Instead of selfishness, we embrace selflessness because that is the way of our Saviour. Instead of only receiving, we generously give because that is the way of our Saviour. We are not those who follow the ways of this world, for ‘for we are in the world but not of the world.’

5. It Comforts Your Sorrows

One that I love doing during the Christmas season is to listen to Hendel’s Messiah. Apart from the composition itself being so good, the other thing (most significant) that makes it stand out for me is the richness of its message particularly from prophet Isaiah “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.” Isa. 40:1-2. At a time when God’s people have experienced exile into Babylon, after suffering and great devastation, they receive this wonderful news from God ‘comfort, comfort’. The comforting has now come because the punishment and service has been completed and sin has been paid for. The message in the verses that follow this is that of a voice calling in the desert prepare the way for the LORD, to make straight a highway for our God. Precisely, the LORD’S coming is what brings this comfort. The LORD himself comes to take away the sorrows of his people. He himself undergoes sorrow, suffering, drinks God’s wrath for our sake. As one hymn writer wrote,

He took my sins and my sorrows,

And made them his very own,

He had no tears for his own griefs,

But sweat drops of blood for mine

This is what Jesus took it all for you and me. Moreover, there’s nothing we can go through right now that he can’t handle. There’s no pain or sorrow we can experience that he isn’t familiar with. He indeed is our faithful high priest who is able to sympathize with us in our troubles and sorrows. This Christmas, we have a place to come to in our sorrows.

6. It Assures You Christian of the Future Hope

Knowing what tomorrow looks like will definitely alter how we do things today. There are those whose lives dramatically change when they get children for they know that apart from just spending for themselves, they have to try and ‘make a future’ for their children. But apart from that, as far as our ability is concerned, none can claim to know exactly how tomorrow will look like in our limited human understanding. We try to predict things, sometimes they come, sometimes they don’t. Yet with Christ’s coming, the future is as brighter and as clearer as it can ever be for Christians. Jesus came in fulfillment of God’s plans in the past and his past coming in itself is a surety of God fulfilling his promises for the future. Indeed ‘all his promises are ‘yes’ in Christ.’

Here is one sure promise that we have as far as our future is concerned;

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”” Rev. 21:1-4.

As Christians, Jesus’ first coming is not the end of the story. There’s another coming. We live between two Advents. The first one has happened, we are awaiting the second one. It’s the second one that will usher in the new heaven and earth that John the Revelator is talking about. In his second coming, the old order of things gives way to the new order of things. In fact, his first coming has already set this motion and every Christian experiences a new sense of things.

The story started with humanity in a garden, having full access to God where he’d ‘hang out’ with them, the story ends with humanity in a garden-city, having full access to God in a much better way, where God isn’t just ‘hanging out with’ but dining with humanity.

As you celebrate Christmas, don’t stop, take that step further to the Second Advent. Herein lies our future hope.

6 Reasons Why You Should Love Christmas

Image result for christmas manger

Christmas season is indeed celebrated yet it also remains the most confused. All over the world, one thing that seems to strongly characterize it is indulgence. This is the time of the year where everyone wants to have a good time reveling. It’s a time for family gatherings, meeting people that you haven’t met in a while, eating, drinking, travelling, receiving and giving gifts. But as all this happens, we get lost into the significance of what this season is all about.

Here’s 6 reasons why you should love Christmas for the celebration it really is;

  1. It’s Good News

When Jesus Christ was born, this is how it was reported “And the angel said to them [the shepherds], “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”” Luke 2:10. The birth of Jesus Christ was not just like any other birth. Here is God coming down, taking on the very nature of man. Jesus means Saviour. He is the one who comes to rescue God’s people from their enemies- the devil, the world and the flesh. Christ means Messiah. He is the anointed one. The one who alone can fulfil all the purposes, promises and intentions of God the Father.

This is good news because he comes to rescue us from our sinfulness and the penalty due our rebellion against God. He’s also defeated that which wars against us- the devil, the world and the flesh. Here’s why this is good news, in Christ Jesus, God is for you and not against you. “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them…” 2 Cor. 5:19. In Christ, we are reconciled to God, this is good news for you.

  1. It’s So Relevant Today

God created everything perfect. But man rebelled by disobeying and wanting to make himself god. This led to man (and the rest of creation) bearing the curse and being driven out of the Garden of Eden- away from God’s presence to experience pain, death and decay. But as God was pronouncing this judgment, there was also another promise “The LORD God said to the serpent… “I will out enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”” Gen. 3:15. Herein lies the first gospel proclamation. And the rest of the bible’s story is a looking forward to the seed of the woman crushing the head of the serpent.

The coming of Jesus is thus the central/focal point of the whole bible’s grand narrative. Everything looks forward to it and flows from it. we in the 21st century can look back and see that this scripture was fulfilled in history as the Son of God came down, born of a woman, lived his life on earth in anticipation for the crush of the and crushed the serpent by his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. This is news worth receiving in our times. During this season, we can come to Jesus knowing that in him we have victory over everything including death. We have nothing to fear.

  1. It Refocuses Your Love

In the gospel according to John, chapter 8, John records an argument Jesus had with the Pharisees (teachers of the law). When Jesus told them that he is the light of the world and that whoever follows him will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life (v.12), they accuse him of being his own witness thus his testimony invalid (v.13). Of course this is not true, for John the Baptist had already come as a forerunner to Jesus confessing that he was not the Christ but “the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (1:23). The Pharisees simply didn’t believe Jesus by claiming they are Abraham’s descendants (8:33) and that they have God as Father (v.41). Jesus then strongly answers them “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God [the Father] and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me.” John 8:42.

Here’s the thing, Jesus comes from the Father to do the Father’s will. For us to know the Father, we do that through Jesus- he reveals the Father to us. Consequently, for us to love the Father, we have to love Jesus the Son. No one can claim to know, love, worship the Father when they don’t know, love and worship the Son. We thus have to love Jesus and then let this love redefine all our other loves.

Part two coming soon

The Gospel Saves, Sustains and Secures

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 vs 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

 

1 Cor 1: 1-3 God calls His Church to be His sanctified people in Christ.

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

Baptism – 04 February 2018

Passage: Colossians 2:6 – 23

Harrison Mungai Macharia.

Introduction

It is very important for us as a church family to be careful about what we believe. Since we proclaim to be a Bible believing and gospel proclaiming, we need to be well acquainted with the Bible and submit to its authority in all matters of life and conduct.

Although we are today dealing with a topical study on the subject of Baptism, it should be noted that we remain committed to expositional preaching and we (the leadership) believe that as the Bible is taught expositionally over a length of time, all matters of faith and practice necessary to life and salvation are addressed. The Bible speak to us most clearly in the way it is written and when read in context. There is however value in zooming in on a topic from time to time.

A Word on Doctrine: First, Second and Third Order Questions

A doctrine is basically a summary of belief. Doctrines can also be said to be a theological conclusion arrived at after careful study of the Bible. It is important for us to understand that within in the history of the church, Christians have sometimes come to differing conclusions on some matters. This can be expected given our divergence of opinion as people on many other issues. However, it is helpful to notice that there are core matters, non-core matters and even tertiary matters. In the core matters [such as authority of scripture, The Triune nature of God, Salvation by Faith alone, by grace alone in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone, etc] we need solid agreement. These matters have a bearing on salvation/redemption which is the grand theme in the Bible.

Then there are second order matters for which there can be divergence of opinion/conclusion without necessarily hurting the body/witness to the gospel. They are more to do with church practices and do not have a direct bearing on Salvation.  These include such matters as Church polity – congregational, Presbyterian (body of elder led), Episcopal (bishop/apostle led), gender roles in church, Baptism and Communion. Etc

Finally there are outer core/third order issues that are really open to preference. These have more to do with tradition and cultural context rather than a firm scriptural teaching. In this domain are matters such as frequency of communion, robes for ministers, Titles, pews or plastic chairs, hymns or choruses, offering plate/basket/envelope or none etc.

It is helpful for Christians to seek unity in faith as our Lord prayed in John 17. We need to hold others as brothers and sisters if we are on the same page on first order issues. Sadly, a lot of division happens when we major on the minor issues. I appreciate the fact that debate continues on what issue goes into what category but surely there are some issues that are more critical than others.

What is Baptism?

In his address to the disciples after resurrection, Jesus commands his disciples to baptize those who will believe their message (Matthew 28:19 ff). Earlier on, Jesus had himself been baptised by John the Baptist in the River Jordan and his disciples also baptised many. (John 4:1-2)

The word baptism comes from the Greek ‘Baptizo’ which simply means to immerse in water. The practice seems to have been common in Jesus time as it is not explained in detail.

Other sources point to baptism being a pledge of allegiance, a public declaration of change of direction, thought or practice (Matthew 3:6; Acts 13:24). We have earlier pictures of in the OT that point to baptism such as the crossing of the Red Sea and Noah’s flood which the NT sees as baptism (1 Cor 10:1-6 and 1 Peter 3:18-22)

In Romans 6: 1- 4, Paul shows us that baptism is a symbol of the death of the old man and the resurrection to new life in Christ. As one of the two sacraments that Christ commanded his church to do, Baptism is an outward, visible sign of an inward, invisible grace.

In the passage that we are considering today, Paul presents baptism as the initiation rite for the new covenant people of God.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 

Colossians 2:11-12

Why: 5 Reasons

  1. Christ commanded it (Matthew 28:19)
  2. It is an expression of our salvation and union with Christ (Rom 6:3-4, Mark 16:15, Acts 22:16]
  3. It is a public declaration of faith (1 Peter 1:23 -25)
  4. It is an entry rite into the body (Colossians 2:12, Galatians 3:26-27, Acts 2:41)
  5. The early church did it and it has been passed down to us. (Acts 8,9,10)

Who should be baptized?

There is strong NT evidence that baptism is for believers. It is for those who have believed. It is however worth noting that baptism does not save but rather it is a sign for those who have been saved.

There is however allusion to whole households being baptised after the family head believed. [Philipian Jailer, Lydia and Crispus Acts 16,18]

When should a Christian should be baptised?

NT practice seemed to be immediately at conversion. Later practice seems to be after some teaching/instruction (Catechumen). There is however no rule on the timing.

Precedent: It seems evident from the many events of baptism that repentance precedes baptism. Those seeking to be baptised need to turn from

How: By Immersion

The Name: This denotes authority to which the person is submitting. Matthew 28:19 shows that Christians are to be baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Mode: As the term baptizo denotes and the word picture we find in Colossians (buried), the symbolism is best captured in immersion.

Since the symbolism is water (cleansing) some traditions hold that quantity does not matter [Exactness of the symbol or the meaning of the symbol]. (Compare with communion – dipping or sipping)

Where: The witness of the local church

In Acts 2, those who were baptised we ‘added to the number of believers and the visible church was gathered there. Historically Baptisms have been public due to their very nature – public declaration.

There are a few exceptions though – The Ethiopian eunuch is baptised enroute to Africa and there seems to be no other witnesses except Philip the Evangelist who baptised him. We also see baptisms in homes of converts such as Cornelius (Acts 9:47), Lydia’s household and the Philippian Jailer’s (at night!)

Who should do it?

It is interesting that Jesus did not baptize people but his disciples did. From the Lord’s command in the great commissioning, and it being and ordinance of the church, it appears those in leadership of the church family to which a person being baptised will belong, should administer it. There is however no prohibition to other believers. Philip was not an apostle.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Does Baptism save you (Mark 16) (Necessity of Baptism – Thief on the cross]
  2. Infant Baptism [Acts 2:39, OT Model]
  3. Rebaptism [Ephesians 4:5-6, Circumcision]
  4. Quantity of water [Does it matter?]
  5. Sin after baptism [Is that the unforgivable sin?]
  6. Baptism in proxy [ 1 Cor 15:29]
  7. Alternative symbolism. [Flags, signatures etc] (Was the practice set in a given cultural context)

Conclusion

It is quite clear that the Lord instituted baptism for all those who would follow him. Believers who are committed to Biblical truth will want to be faithful to the command and indeed the example of Jesus. Although Baptism is not salvation, it is indeed a mark of obedience to our Lord who established it. We can come to varying conclusions on the mode and timing of baptism but we must uphold it as an ordinance of our Lord that should be done throughout the age of the church.

A more important question is if we have our faith in Jesus Christ. We can be tempted to unwittingly place our faith and confidence in baptism rather than the Lord in whose name Christians are baptised. Without faith, really there should be no baptism.

Col 2:16 – 19.

Rev. Harrison Mungai Macharia.

In his image

What do all these things have in common?

  • The abortion of 200,000 babies in the UK each year, just over 1% for reasons of likely serious handicap.
  • A Muslim debater challenges a Christian, “Can God also become a dog?”
  • A philosopher who argues that a human being who cannot feel pain or joy is not a person.
  • Higher road deaths in Africa than any other region of the world (WHO).
  • Terrible industrial accidents caused by the negligence of authorities, workers and residents.
  • Deaths caused by looting of petrol from overturned tanker which then explodes.
  • Extreme environmentalism that sees humanity as a cancer on the planet.
  • Treating one another as objects in service of our idolatries.

Underlying each of these is the suppression of a very important truth – that human life is immensely precious in that men and women are made in the image of God.  It is not that we are God (as some sects would have us believe and as our sin pretends) but we are in the image of God.  As Francis Schaeffer says:

I am as separated from God in the area of His being the Creator and infinite and I being the creature and finite, as is the atom or the energy particle [or the dog]…  However, on the side of God’s personality, the break comes between man and the rest of creation… man’s relationship is upward      (The God Who is There, pp. 94-95)

Attributes of God

What is the image of God then?  What is it that we have trampled and deformed?  What is this personality that we are supposed to share (amazingly) with the Creator?  I’ve always been a bit stuck on this one.  From Genesis 1:27-28 we can infer that we are like God in exercising dominion, in being moral beings and in being plural, social beings.  Is that all?  Turn to Colossians 3:

9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator… 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

So what is the image?  Truthfulness, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love.  From the parallel passage in Ephesians we might add ‘working with your hands so that you have something to share with those in need’ (Eph. 4:28).  Now try meditating on the Old Testament story and consider how God is all those things – truthful, compassionate, gentle, incredibly patient, even working with his mighty hands for the benefit of others – what a God we have!  Even his dominion is a gentle, humble, loving, for-the-benefit-of-others dominion – servant leadership.

Which all makes us think of Jesus doesn’t it?  The ‘Creator’ in Colossians is Christ (Col. 1:16).  It is the image of the Lord Jesus into which we are being changed (2 Cor. 3:18).  Before the world began it was God’s plan to conform us to the image of the Son (Rom. 8:29) and one day we will be fully like him (1 John 3:2).

Athanasius spoke of how the Original Image came to restore us back to the image of God:

You know what happens when a portrait that has been painted on a panel becomes obliterated through external stains. The artist does not throw away the panel, but the subject of the portrait has to come and sit for it again, and then the likeness is re-drawn on the same material. Even so was it with the All-holy Son of God. He, the Image of the Father, came and dwelt in our midst, in order that He might renew mankind made after Himself (On the Incarnation)

Christ came into the world. United himself to our humanity. Walked to the Cross. Drew into himself all our disfigurement and death and curse. Even though he perfectly lived before God and perfectly reflected the truthfulness, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love of God, he took our place and took the punishment for our defacing of the image of God. He was tortured so badly that ‘his appearance was disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness’ (Isaiah 52:14).  And then he rose again and ascended to the Father and took his seat in the artist’s study so that, united to him, we might be conformed and restored into his image.

And how are we being conformed to his image?

  1. By all things that we experience (Rom. 8:28), especially suffering;
  2. By seeing Him (2 Cor. 3:18; John 3:2) – that is knowing him, his truth, compassion, kindness, humility in his Word, and fixing our hearts and minds on him (2 Cor. 3:12-16; Col. 3:2,10).
  3. As a church speaking the truth in love to one another (Eph. 4:15-16).

Sometimes these amazing truths are best sung…

Christ Alone

The 16th century reformation is often understood in terms of the five ‘alones’:

  • Scripture alone
  • Grace alone
  • Faith alone
  • Christ alone
  • To the Glory of God alone

Probably none of these were fully developed in the mind of Martin Luther in 1517 when he nailed his 95 theses for debate to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. But he was certainly moving in their direction. Take for example thesis 37:

Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

A few years later Luther was crystal clear:

Outside of Christ there is nothing but Satan, apart from grace nothing but wrath, apart from light only darkness, apart from the way only error, apart from the truth only a lie, apart from life only death (The Bondage of the Will, 1525)

How may we obtain remission of our sins? Paul answers: “The man who is named Jesus Christ and the Son of God gave himself for our sins.” The heavy artillery of these words explodes papacy, works, merits, superstitions. For if our sins could be removed by our own efforts, what need was there for the Son of God to be given for them? (Luther’s commentary on Galatians1535 – worth reading the whole commentary which all makes the point, in fiery language, that salvation is by Christ alone)

A few years later again the French reformer John Calvin wrote:

We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ (Acts 4:12). We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is ‘of him’ (1 Cor. 1:30)… If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth (Heb. 2:17; 5:2)… If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross (Gal. 3:13); if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven… In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other. (Institutes, 2.26.19, 1559 edition).