Given a choice between heaven and this world many choose what they can see. They’d rather have the bird in the hand that 9 in the bush. This world and it’s promises seem tangible. And nothing is more appealing and trustworthy than what we can see and touch. We want to live life to the fullest here and now because tomorrow is unknown. Why deny yourself for life on some cloud when you can enjoy things here and now? We are realists and we go with what makes sense to us.
But let us unpack this realism. How much of this world really is in our hands? COVID has shown us more clearly than ever that we are just one pandemic away from want and disaster. One job loss from poverty. That all you need to bring you down to your knees is a disease. Add economic breakdown and our realism changes. You are one serious illness away to hating the offer of this world. And the reality of this world is that you can’t have this world. You can only lease its temporarily joys before nature rudely interrupts you.
YOLO philosophy forgets that you can barely live down here. That what the world offers it quickly takes away. That in truth what’s before us is a mirage and as soon we get near it goes further. The world dangles life before us but it can barely breath. We spend all our lives seeking a life that is taken away in a second. We try mitigate risk, build stamina and eat well. Then one day out of nowhere the pandemic of death comes without knocking. Everything you held dear is taken away with no apology or notice.
It’s then that we revisit the earlier offer and realize we only have one true choice. That this world can’t be offered because it can’t be given. It’s already on the expiry date. Here we only get a land lease for a short while. It’s heaven and hell that is truly on offer. And the mirage of this life says we should reconsider this. That what looks far off is actually very near to us. That before the next breath the after life could be our reality. And however long it takes we will be confronted by that choice sooner or later.
When we get our reality right the offer of heaven makes a lot of sense. It becomes the reasonable choice. The one land we can get permanently to establish our roots. And because the marker of the world is trustworthy we can depend on him however unlikely it seems to the naked eye. It’s actually outrageous to stand on the ground we stand, to breathe the air we breath and delight in the blessings of this life yet term heaven too good to be true. It would seem we doubt the carpenter while in his workshop.
But where nature provides only suggestions about the reality of heaven, the Bible affirms and confirms that we can call it our home. In the eye of scripture nothing is more real and material than the future ahead of us. The call of faith isn’t at all blind for we get more than enough reason to trust in God. It says we can be sure of his faithfulness more than the rising of the sun. What he has said he will do and those who believe are already the citizens of heaven. This world is passing away and with it all it’s promises. But our future is with God and in his eternal city.
1 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. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
One of the fears we have as a people is to imagine that either our leaders don’t know our situation or they simply don’t care. It’s double tragedy to imagine they’d careless about our fate and instead only favour their peers. It’s painful, it makes us angry knowing we put them there but hopeless when we realize we can’t change things.
So when one finally walks down our path and says I know what you are facing that in itself is great news. It says they see our plight and all they need is to show they are genuine. To make us believe the era of the Messiah has come with them. That with them in office our pain will be a sad history. That finally something will change and however big or small a change we all want it.
To know we are known and someone cares is the greatest asset for a human heart. To know our leaders knows our plight and will do something about it sells us hope and what’s more precious than hope? But critics will ask, how many times have we had this narrative before? And what makes us think this time it will be any different? Was there a politician who didn’t seem to share our plight and promise change?
Now here is where things get tricky. You see a good portion of us will lean on hope no matter what history says. It’s the last coin in our pockets and we have to treasure it. If we lose it we’d have to kill ourselves. The instict of survival in us holds on to hope when everything else fails. And if the other side isn’t selling a better deal to us then we have no other choice.
Unfortunately if we looked back we’d know better and that more blown out promises have been made by many politicians before. That a man who wants an office and desperately so will say anything our ears want to hear. A man who wants a girl has no problem going down their knee. And our history is full of the promises of politicians both those in government and in opposition.
I’m not trying to use this post to discredit a certain party or favour another candidate. I don’t want to make us feel hopeless if anything I hold to hope like there’s nothing better. But I would always say be suspicious of politicians because in truth all of them actually do know our plight. Don’t be deceived they don’t know what’s happening perhaps they may not be as invested but they all know. They’ve got foot soldiers on the ground and honestly it doesn’t take a genius to know our suffering. You just need to turn on the news. The question is how genuine is their proposal?
Unfortunately I don’t trust the ruling class or even the opposition blindly because I wouldn’t trust any man blindly not even myself. I want to look back and see consistency of care and concern. I want to see there’s some shred of honesty in a manifesto not merely inflated promises. Sometimes I think going against the grain and playing the long game instead of blindly replacing the status quo might be the key to change.
But there’s always a risk in politics that any one leader however well measured will ultimately fail us. Power has a way to blind and change people and man is not that trustworthy either. In the end we need more than someone who seems to identify with us and appears genuine. We need someone without the disease of all men that in the end cares for their own welfare. Here’s where democracy fails us because we need more than one of us for a better leader.
It’s the one who came down to face our plight with us that can truly say they know us. But it’s the one who is unlike us in our selfishness who can actually help us. One who sees our plight, puts down his pride and washes our feet. We need one like us but better than us. One who sympathises with our weaknesses but can truly help us. One who’s proved genuine and trustworthy.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll find him in the next election but it means our future is guaranteed either way. It means we can still lean on hope though our choices down here are likely to fail us. We have true hope in him not in the lies from every election year. In him there’s no risk of corrupting power. We have hope in one who walked the earth and rose to rule in the heavens. One who truly saw and acted for the plight of the oppressed and is concerned with the least of us. We have Jesus who is God and man, a leader we can truly trust in. He says,
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
I heard a voice walking down the planet A tune that drew me close to listen It felt like a cheer but also like crying I think it was both,the echo of distant voices Some wailed while others rejoiced greatly It was like the noise of battle won and lost But both camps took turn to rejoice and mourn
I turned aside and heard a beautiful voice It resounded across the globe It spoke of beauty, love and celebration It preached about hope, peace and joy But then it stopped and it burst into wailing It cried of loss, danger and death I couldn’t understand this place
I listened to their music and it was amazing It told of the wonder of man and his beauty The songs of men addressed to their daughters They had the sweetest words of the world But on the other side a father cursed his son A mother was troubled by his daughters There was sadness, rage and despair
What’s wrong with this place I wondered One time I’m loving it then I’m dreading it One sings of joy the other of pain I longed that the echo of sadness would end That for once the music of joy would last I wanted a good song to play until the end But every time it was interrupted by sad news
It was a longing shared across the planet People wished for once wars would cease That pain and suffering would end And joy be the music of our days But the dream was always cut short Someone was too greedy Someone always put themselves first
So these days I dream of another world My eyes close and the cries cease I’m taken to a distant land where peace prevails I sit quietly and listen to a good song end When all the reality of sin fades music lasts Not a cry of a child abandoned or a people lost I listen to the end of beauty and celebration
I long for this land and country I dream of walking down it’s streets To be called a citizen of the land of peace Take me away from this corrupt nation Give me the joy of everlasting peace Oh! How I rejoice knowing it’ll be mine one day I dream of a better country, I long for heaven
Many times when we criticize preaching and call out false teaching we have the preachers in mind. We think if we rid the country of false teachers our churches will be sound and our theology right. But there’s a great contibutor to false doctrine that we let go easy. We forget the supply is only available because the market demands it. Our minds don’t pause to imagine that the people on the pews are shaping the man infront as much as he purports to. We think the direction of flow is God to his servant and from pulpit to the congregation. In truth it works both ways and sometimes it’s what the preacher thinks the congregation wants that dictates the Sunday sermon. It’s the congregation to the pulpit and back without God in the picture. Paul warns of this in 2 Timothy 4:3
3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 4 NIV
People will come to the preaching hour with a craving not to hear from God necessarily but to hear what their minds desperately crave. They come with an urge not always for false hope but whatever makes their hearts skip a bit. Some want to hear mind blowing mysteries and conspiracy theories. A great service for them takes them around fantasy kingdom where they wrestle with demons and leave with secrets only they know. Others want to be blown away by the genius of the man of God. These might fool you with a love of the Word but they are mere intellectuals in a lecture hall. For some it’s another Churchill show and they want to laugh their lungs out. They want a sense of emotion, someone who gives them the feelings. The man of God is easily deceived by these as they seem to flow with him. In truth they are all junkies thirsty for one more jab.
But even when we value God’s Word and want the preacher to point us to the text and context we can also have unrealistic views about preaching. If we expect every sermon will be top notch however we define it, we are no different from these guys. We are still driven by the itch of our ears not what and how God wants us to leave church that day. Yes we should celebrate great preaching that points us to Jesus and keeps our nose on the text of God’s Word. But if we expect it every Sunday we demand a standard the man of God can’t meet and it says much about us not him. In truth, it’s not the best sermon every Sunday that is the mark of a faithful ministry. It’s not the best meal in a great restaurant that keeps us growing and healthy. Sometimes we need some ugali, some omena and once in a while some veggies. It’s a people committed to God and his Word even when the church next door sounds like the Spirit has come in person. It’s when we choose to wrestle with the word and sometimes get it wrong and don’t deliver the best talks that we show we are truly committed to it.
I don’t want to say we should excuse boring preaching. I don’t say we put up with mediocre preachers as long as they quote the Bible. And we shouldn’t think a church can’t be faithful if it’s lively and growing rapidly. But we need to be careful we don’t set a standard for preachers that makes them aim at pleasing us more than God. If we do that we risk the man of God answering to our itching ears and that is neither right nor healthy. Preachers on the other hand shouldn’t be removed from the congregation or merely sing by their tune. Paul advice to Timothy is to both preach the Word all the times whether people like it or not, even when it leads to persecution but also to be invoved in the life of his congregants. To know when they need encouragement or rebuke.
2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
…5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
2 Timothy 4 NIV
The mandate comes from above but it has in mind a people easily tempted, easily discouraged, oftenly forgetful and who mostly prefer the world around them. The preacher needs to remember the medicine of the Word is what they need but careful also to make the right diagnosis. But the congregation needs to be careful lest they make the Lord’s servant doubt his tools of trade. We need to ask ourselves, if the sermon was not what we expected, is it possible we had the wrong expectations? Is it possible we have a wrong view of preaching and we expect it to be a daily meal outside? But when a preacher does his job well it won’t kill us to appreciate him as much as it is his job. That man is a man like any other and there is a lot that would easily discourage and deceive him to follow in the world’s steps like everybody else. Believe you me he’s no different from you. And if you are the kind that easily falls for one criticism imagine how he’d crumble with a thousand. For faithful preaching to work the congregation needs to be on board in the good and the not so good Sundays.
Death has a way of reminding and awaking us to the reality of this life. That any of us and every one of us whether big or small, rich or poor, famous or infamous has a date with the small box. Death meets us all and most of the times it’s not well mannered to book an appointment. The man of God, the good statesman, the witchdoctor and the rebel all have one sure destiny under the sun. They will die. Sure their deeds will make that a day of mourning or celebration depending on who you ask but in the end they’ll be dead. It’s the thing that reminds you that men however powerful and influential are mere mortals. Death sets apart the creator from creation; the clock of life unravels man’s weakness.
We can all agree death is brutal, a ferocious enemy that attacks without warning. It leaves rampage, distress and broken lives behind. But it also tells us that how we live matters because we are not here for as long as we imagine. We need back that Gospel message that said tonight could be it for you because many have been caught unaware without it. As much as we don’t like negative vibes I think we might do with a dose of reality in our modern day. As we motivate people to live their fullest, exploit hidden potential, walk like the boss let’s remember we are here only for a while. Actually the Gospel tells us our best life, our longest life is in the future beyond the grave.
Order your house today by ordering your heart. The Bible says only those who die in the Lord are blessed that is happy and safe. For them it’s more like retirement as they finally rest from their labours. Those who lived in rebellion on the other hand, those driven by human sin, the grave is the beginning of their troubles. I know this is uncomfortable, old fashioned and you’d rather we do a better and more appealing Gospel message. Meet people where they are, pick what they love and entice them in to buy the Gospel message. But if talk of death is not relevant to us perhaps it’s because we’ve slept in for too long. In this country you can’t go past a news bulletin without it. So we may as well look into the Gospel’s verdict on the matter and do so more oftenly.
13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”
When you listen keenly to political analysts debate each other you can hear their master speaking behind them. They’ll use facts and quote the Constitution all while construing and obliquing it in ways that favour the hand that feeds them. Activists are no different though they’d like us to believe they are the neutral custodians of the rule of law and the good of the people. And you know what? We are no different either, as we listen we hear what we want to hear. We are all biased and none of us comes to these issues neutral.
Those who support the ruling class do so because they feed from that table. Those who oppose it because they are denied a share. And we are but the grass upon which the bulls fight. We receive what drops when the masters and their servants have had their share. We are bribed with tokens to shut up as they follow higher agendas. But we are no different. If anything we do the same with our jobs and resources. The natural man is driven by his stomach and when it’s full of food by his hunger for wealth and power.
We admire it though when we hear someone came to the table neutral. That he was driven by the interest of the common mwananchi though we get very suspicious of that. It’s beyond human to lay down ones interests for the benefit of others. It’s abnormal, suspicious and only love; true love, care and concern can lead a man to scale that mountain. It says greater good cannot be achieved unless one pours their heart for another and our leaders for the masses. It’s laying down ones interest, their lives, denying the religion of normal man for the sake of others. It’s godly, the thing you see with real friends and families. Only the man who loves truly serves fully.
We must then ask is that a quality our leaders possess? Do they love Wanjiku? It’s getting too emotional you say. That’s not a quality of leadership, it’s something you look for in a spouse not a governor. I think we would actually get very uncomfortable if the next MP sells a love manifesto. Choose me because I love you. Maybe it’s too much to ask? You’ll not find it in our politicians CVs. That this man has proved a love for the people and that’s his greatest achievement. But it’s the greatest quality for the best of leaders. It’s what we find in God through the Bible, it’s the CV of Jesus. Only he comes without a devious agenda, he comes with a love manifesto and that’s why he could stoop low to save us.
He came to serve and only he was driven by that agenda, see Mark 10:45. And in service he became the greatest leader that we should all emulate. But his service and humility is not the only attribute we should copy and seek in our leaders. He was first driven by love, love for the lost, compassion to a sheep without a shepherd. Only the one who truly loves can pursue our interests. If we want to emulate his strategy we need to be informed by his conviction.
Our hands must be strengthened by his heart. A heart to seek the good of the downtrodden not merely giving them the leftovers of our selfish pursuit. And unfortunately you’ll not find that regularly under the sun. You’ll only see droplets of it where the finger of God has touched the hearts of men. But that’s our eternal reality for those who believe in Jesus. May the Lord help us and anyone who pursues leadership at home and in our society to emulate him.
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.
We live in a time when people not only rebel against God but where godly values are seen as being evil not just old fashioned. A time when many believe Christians and the God of the Bible should learn something from our woke world. A time when it’s not the church confronting the world but the world raising an accusation finger on the church. When our world truly believes the church and her long history of teaching and demanding obedience to an old book is actually the problem.
In truth we’ve been here long before only for the most part this has been localized in certain circles or remained a private struggle but now it’s becoming a mainstream view. More and more people are embolden not only to question God in private but confront him in public. Many believe it’s time for the church to listen and learn. And since the world is just a click away many have undertaken this as their mission. To confront Biblical values of marriage, our society, leadership at home, in church and in the world. To teach God a lesson on gender, equality and justice.
They point fingers on how God has dealt with the problem of suffering and see him as a perpetrator. The God of love in the Bible is seen as a God of hatred and as a narcissistic being. The God of mercy as a God who is indifferent to the plight of many. The saving God as nothing more than an angry teenager that sends to hell those who disagree with him. A God who picks up on small problems like sin, the choice of consenting adults, and blows these issues beyond proportion. From the view of the world God needs to sit and learn, to evolve and move with the times.
The question before us is, is the world right? Is there something we’ve got wrong? Is it possible the all knowing God has missed something here. For many of us within Evangelical faith, defined in biblical sense, even my description here is nothing short of blasphemy. I trembled as I penned it down but I don’t think we can avoid what the world is saying. Perhaps privately we hold to this but we are not as bold to say it. Now to be clear I don’t think they are right but I think this helps us understand the people we are trying to reach with the Gospel. To see where they are coming from. To understand the problem for some of them is not just mere rebellion. These are not people who knowingly or unknowingly are just going against God’s Word for the sake of it. It’s more invested than that and many of them might believe we are the problem not them.
As I said I don’t think this is necessary new to our world. It goes back to Adam and Eve and the tower of Babel in Genesis. You see sin is not just rebellion against God’s word. It also sells the lie that we know better and that we, not God, have the best interest for us and the world around us. That we are not just right but that we are just and moral unlike the God of the Bible. Satan whispers to our ear that the problem is that God doesn’t want us to be like him. That he wants to spoil our freedom and hinder us from what’s truly best for us. And that he’s never there when we need him most. He wants us scattered while the best thing would be for us to stay in one place seeking what’s best for humanity. Building a society and a name for ourselves in this world.
4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
While our world is more bold in calling God names and trampling down on Christian values, this is still the trick of the old liar. Sin has come out in public demanding of us to follow it’s own religion and calling names on those who disobey it. It calls men to follow it with a promise to make their life better. But in truth it’s just another faith, another gospel, the religion of modern man. But still it’s the old devil in the details masquerading like the angel of light. And this religion is strong because our hearts are easily drawn to it. It’s actually natural to man to see what God calls good as bad and see the promises of sin as heaven on earth. This is the faith of the natural sinful man.
Sin turns upside down what the Word of God demands. It pokes holes on the attributes of God and questions his motives. It raises questions on the relevance of the Bible to a changing world. And preaches to us that God either doesn’t know better or doesn’t care as much. It’s the Serpent telling Eve that God is just mean and doesn’t want us to be invisible like him. But as it was in the garden and all through Bible history, sin never delivers what it promises. But even then it demands we settle with that lie simply because it looks tangible.
But has our world become better as we’ve moved away from Christian values? Have we now found an answer to the happy ever after question in sexual revolution? Has our crusade on gender and equality outside of God brought us to the promised land? There are those who believe this is the case. But in truth when you look around you realise that as we’ve moved further away from God and his values we’ve only become more confused and lost. We are like the prodigal child that leaves their home away from the Father only to return miserable and empty.
The truth of the matter is we cannot sow seeds of selfish pursuit and still have a better society. We cannot shove God away and expect to enjoy his world without him. We cannot call good evil and evil good without facing the judgement of a broken world. It’s asking for Genesis 3 all over again. Actually it’s a miracle that we haven’t descended into anarchy sooner. It’s an act of grace that our society still works. If we managed to kick God out of the picture completely we would soon see the horns of the lying devil we are following.
In truth what our world is truly craving is a world devoid of problems. We are looking to have heaven on earth but we don’t want God in it. We essentially want to be like God and choose to blame him for our own failures. It’s Eve and the old serpent all over again. And as the Adams of this world we tell God it’s you who made us this way. You are to blame not us. Your way is not good for us. Give us a chance to show you how things are done. Take a back seat and learn what true human values look like. But praise be to God that even when he allows us to kick him out still he stays close. Praise God that amidst this man made hell God is actively involved as God over all and especially through the work of the Gospel.
For those caught up in this, what you are truly looking for, a world without problems, true freedom and happiness is actually found in God through the Gospel. It’s the lie of the devil that says you can get it in the world or in believing and following your heart. You are still not free for in getting the world beneath your feet the devil asks you to bow before him. The world, the devil and sin cannot provide what they promise. They are like politicians in a general election. They’ll say anything to get in but once in you’ll be in their mercy.
Perhaps you are right there’s something wrong with our churches today but it’s not God who is wrong. It’s when our churches have not given you the full Gospel picture. When we have picked and chosen what to teach, what sin to condemn and what attribute of God to hammer down. The God of the Bible as we see when the Gospel is taught clearly is truly invested in your life. He’s not just the Judge but Saviour. He doesn’t condone one sin and judge another. His son was tempted like you are and through the cross brought into everlasting life. He couldn’t bow to the devil and the lies of the world even when they wanted to crown him king. He knew they had no real power to provide what they promised.
But what the world promises and can’t give God promises and has given. In the Gospel we see one who died for us. One who is carrying us to our eternal home. One who sympathises and helps us in our weaknesses for our own good. One who will truly give heaven to those who trust and walk with him. Choosing God won’t give you heaven here and now. It won’t fulfill your wild cravings or make your life easier. But you are far better off with him than in the world. You’ll get true eternal heavenly hope and help by his Word and Spirit in this life. True happiness is found in him not outside of him. What you are looking for is the salvation only he gives. And you finally behold his true face in the Gospel you’ll shout in his praise.
The greatest and most well known companies of the world still spend so much on advertising and they do that in the most prime hour. You won’t watch the news to the end before seeing an Ad from Coca-Cola even though when we say soft drink in any event that’s all anyone thinks. Why? Because even if the whole world knows they exist, even if you’ll find their bottles across the globe from Kalahari to Kazakhstan, they believe still more people would do with an extra soda. It’s not a question of how well known but how much more they can sell and remain relevant. They understand something that we don’t seem to get clearly within the church business. That what gets you in is what keeps you on and you don’t need to change the product only the marketing strategy. Believe in your product and speak of it like your believe it at every opportunity is the old skill in the book.
More than Coca-cola though Christianity has indeed gone out to the whole world with an even longer history. But our problem is we get easily comfortable whenever our small local community seems to believe in our product. For the most part we think all they need is some sense of association like going to church and we can take a back seat in the marketing business. So for the prime hour we let others have a say or get ourselves something new, something seemingly appealing, something we think the people need. But we all know if Coca-Cola did that they’d be dead within a generation.
But Coca-cola doesn’t let the change in the market deter them from their business and belief that more people should purchase their product. Instead they approach that culture, the new trends and preferences and show them why Coca-cola is the answer. They know something else we don’t seem to get, that though brands change and culture moves the needs are fundamentally the same. You’ve just got to reach the people where they are at and show them why they need your product. Same old Coca-cola, might take a new bottle and a more niche marketing strategy but the product remains the same.
Why is it that we let competitors convince us that our product is old news and irrelevant? Why would we give up our prime hour for something else other than the Gospel? We’ve got a product far better and more promising than Coca-Cola. For nothing changes people and offers what we truly crave than the Gospel. We’ve got a free audience every Sunday infront of our pulpits. A people hungry for the hope of the Gospel. If Coca-Cola ran a weekly church you can bet what their weekly message would be. Why do we deviate from ours?
I know there’s a lot more that fights the spread of the Gospel and things are not as easy as advertising. I know more forces visible and invisible are at play here. And there’s an offence the Gospel draws unlike Coca-cola. But still there are three things we can drawn from the world of advertising. One, we’ve got to believe in our product and say it like we believe it. Second, however relevant and widely accepted it is still we must keep sharing about our product to those who know and the many who don’t. Third, change in the market doesn’t mean we have to dump or change our product, we just need to reach the market where they are at. Coca-cola reaps as much as it gives to the marketing industry. Christianity would reap a great more if we invested everything we’ve got to the tested and proven product that is the Gospel. And especially if we valued the prime Sunday hour and reserved it for nothing else but the Gospel by teaching though the Bible story and pointing people to Jesus.
Now, in Gospel sharing there’s weakness with every illustration we pick and this is no exception. But I do honestly believe we do a great deservice to ourselves, our generation and our future when we hold loosely to the teaching and practice of the Gospel within our churches and Christian communities. If we believed half as much as Coca-Cola believes in their product and what they think of the market, we would never depart from the teaching of the Gospel even for a single Sunday. We would test and ascertain everything we preach and commit to by the Gospel litmus test.
You know what blows my mind away is that the Gospel product is not only what every man needs to hear. We are told it’s the very manifold wisdom of God that even the angels tap into to know our God. Imagine that! For you guys that love mysteries and big revelations the Gospel should be what you are all about.
12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. 1 Peter.
See also Ephesians 3:10.
In other words the Gospel of Jesus is so powerful, so relevant, so central that the universe revolves around it. If angels were on earth they’d be all about the Gospel. They would sit as many times to learn from the Gospel as told in the story of the Bible. Why do we substitute it for something else? The world of yesterday, today and tomorrow is united by this central message. That man is desperately sinful and hopelessly guilty and ripe for God’s wrath. But that by the Gospel of Jesus wretched man has a place in the holy kingdom of God. By faith in Jesus man who is born dead in sin is rescued to be a saint and a son in God’s kingdom. The enemy of God is brought home and made a son of the family of God by faith in Jesus. That’s the product the world needs. There’s the hope for humanity. And it never gets old or irrelevant.
That message is what we need here and now. It’s what gets us in through the door of faith and what we need for the journey. Yes we can’t teach through Gospel tracts every Sunday that would be boring. Yes we must think about what our congregation face everyday and rightly apply this Gospel, faithful preaching demands this. Yes we cannot ignore the needs and the culture around us, we are here for a reason. But like Coca-cola and better we’ve got one product that has proved to work, the Gospel, and it’s what people need more than anything.
We have one arrow in our quiver but the only one we need for all the wars of this life. For all arrays of our needs, wants and preferences only the Gospel has the cure. Everything else only calms the symptoms but the Gospel truly heals. We must believe this like Coca-cola believes in their product. We must say this like we believe it. We must share it regardless of how many associate with it. And even within our camps we must still teach and hold to it by teaching the Bible that teaches the Gospel as oftenly as is possible. Forget all those new trendy topics, if you want lasting relevance land with the Gospel. Give me the old Gospel message as taught in the Bible applied to life here and now.
There can never be enough talk of the Gospel within our churches and Christian communities. We may not call every sermon, every fellowship and mission trip a Gospel crusade but that’s what they should be. We should be known if ever for anything that we were a people drunk of the Gospel. We fail many times but we should rejoice whenever rebuked by the Gospel. Yes we enjoy all kinds of talks and humor goes a long way but without the Gospel we always leave empty. May the Lord help me never to tire, never to get familiar or presume I need anything more than the unadulterated preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel according to Coca-Cola is here’s more Coke for you. And our Gospel is that we need more Gospel teaching.
All of us admire people who’ve achieved great things in life. We are drawn by heroism in every sphere of life. We want to be like them or be associated with them. You might actually say all our history and moral stories are written with the hero in mind. It’s the man who beat the odds and achieved what looked impossible that has a story to tell. It’s the man who’s brought up a family and educated his children amidst all kinds of challenges that we admire. It’s the leader who’s lead well and made fortunes for his people that wins a legacy. The man who inspires is the one who stood and fought for what he believed to be right even when the whole world was against him. Hero mentality shapes a lot of what we do and desire.
I actually think the recent push in churches on getting people to know their God given purpose is informed by this. We want to believe there’s something great only we can achieve and when we find it then we’ll have made it in life. If we can find something to live for then our lives will count for something. We’ll make it in life leaving an impact and we believe God will be happy with us. Anyone who is a dreamer lives in that world and we cheer them on to keep dreaming. All dreams are valid and the sky is the limit we say.
Some of us aim for higher goals, to become a household name or at least a man of influence in our circles. But then we grow up and realize somethings are not as easy as we had dreamt. Still we hope we’ll make a significant contribution where God has placed us. And at the very least we hope people will remember us for something. Something to be said on our funeral that we did right and lived for. Of course life is not always as linear and we can get bitter, selfish and disillusioned to care for anything. But still for the most part we admire heroism even if only to be associated with it.
Here I’m not just thinking of the public space but even within family. We want to go past where our parents reached or be like them if we deemed them successful. Men want to emulate other men who have done great things for their families however they define that. Dad wants their children to grow up admiring them or at least go beyond them. Women want to be associated with great men whether at home or in the society. We are all drunk with heroism until something else replaces that good addiction. I think the problem with us is we are always looking at the end of the story not the process. For the most part we think it’s an event that will scale us high to raise our heroic flag. It’ll be an impossible situation that only we could help out. It’ll be an instant that calls us to rise to the occasion and showcase our greatness.
But while we know a lot of heroes by key moments in history they are actually defined long before in the ordinary life. They are heroes before they climb the Everest or stand for what’s right. It’s because they stood the ground in the ordinary that they can withstand pressure when it comes to the key moments. But for the most part they are just ordinary people like you and me. Now we don’t have a lot of documented ordinary stories of heroes because for the most part that doesn’t sell. But where we do we realize our heroes are more ordinary than we realize.
I was just thinking about the heroes of faith, pardon me if that’s not something you subscribe to. But if you look at the so called heroes of faith like in Hebrews 11, yes you see great extraordinary things they did that defined them. But if you looked closely you’d also realise a lot of ordinariness that we miss. That they were actually normal people with weaknesses and some made serious blunders in life. But they’re recorded as heroes because of what they believed and were willing to stand and where need be, die for. That faith made them scale high in history but for the most part they applied it in the ordinary life. They were just normal people living for what they believed and sometimes even had their doubts.
Think about Abraham the father of faith. Most people know him for his willingness to leave his home to follow God, for trusting God for a son in old age and even being ready to sacrifice him in obedience and faith to God. But the whole story of Abraham that is undocumented is mostly a man living ordinary life and trusting God to fulfill his promise. Theres a lot of waiting time and Abraham isn’t always a saint through and through. Remember his story in Egypt? Take any other character in the list and you’ll see that one, they were human, weak and sinful. Second, for many we know them by key moments of faith and not much else. But third, we realize that faith must have been practised not only in the key moments but in the ordinary life.
I think it’s the ordinary that shapes heroes long before it comes to a key moment. Think about the greatest of those heroes, our Lord Jesus. The world knows him for his death and resurrection, the sermon on the mountain and maybe his controversy with the religious class. But looking at his life however exceptional we read in a lot of ordinary life. He’s walking with his disciples, he’s eating in a tax collectors house and sometimes he’s hungry and disappointed. But what makes it all different is that his faith permeates through the ordinary. His faith and trust in God doesn’t just appear at the tail end of his life but is evident all through and through.
Perhaps we should focus more on the ordinary life even as we dream of the tail end that defines our heroism. Don’t just dream of one day standing and willing to die for what you believe. Practise what you believe in the ordinary away from the limelight. Because if one day we might call you a hero you’ll have been one long before in the ordinary. When it comes to it the process is what makes heroes in the end. It’s how we live in the ordinary life that will shape us into what we aspire to be. If we do this we might realise it’s easier to be a hero than we imagine. Take one day at a time, live for God and apply what you believe.
True Christian heroism is defined not only by where we stand at the end but by the process. It’s in the ordinary that our sanctification is achieved. It’s in the ordinary that we live for God and our faith shines in this life. When we are at home raising our kids. At school when we are preparing for that exam. In that marriage not on special days. When we are in that office on a Tuesday and it’s just a normal day at work. The difference is our faith should permeate all through it. Our heroism is shaped not by key moments but in the ordinary. And at the end it’s how we lived in the ordinary that will count.
13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
COVID has sent us through a roller coaster of restrictions in the last couple of months. One day you are struggling to get to church because you allowed yourself to watch a series late into Saturday night. Next day you have to stay indoors and stream through online Sunday service. Sometimes you hope they could cut down on some church events but you enjoy the freedom to be there. You go back to physical meeting before the next spike of infections hits and you are back to your Sunday sofa. I must say it’s quite a drain when everything else is also online.
But now we are in that phase where we can actually go back to the church building. There’s something with freedom that excites all of us even when we might not pursue it. We all want freedom to go anywhere any time even when we might not really be interested to. But for a country with a Christian majority who cherish the place of church community this is good news to many. So I’m quite eager to go back to the church building and meet up with the church family this Sunday. But I was just wondering whether this is a shared desire across the board. What’s the place of a local physical church in this virtual world?
The virtual world has brought the church into our living rooms. You’ve got access to some of the best preaching in the world and the license to lazy indoors on Sunday morning as we try to fight COVID. It’s really a dream come true for many for all kind of reasons, good and bad. You could say evangelistically this is a good thing as churches now must compete for the virtual space. But what becomes of the local physical church when the Global church is a switch away. What will motivate us to leave our homes, sometimes having to travel miles away to access a church with far less polished preaching and classy music?
If church is purely a preaching podium we really have no reason to leave the comfort of the sofa. Perhaps for us who think so highly of good Gospel preaching this is a reminder about the value of the church community. But if church was merely a community of like minded fellows with a performance in front then still that won’t get me off the couch. It’s easier to work that around my comfort. We can go mountain climbing in the afternoon, do Sunday lunch or better still do all that on Saturday for a lazy Sunday. That should challenge those of us for whom church is more of a social community club.
There’s a third category we easily forget, those who attend to serve for good or bad motivations. I’m an usher at church and I’ve got to say there’s a fulfilment that comes with seeing people welcomed well and everything flowing smoothly. So I don’t want to be hard on these guys. Actually statistics in this country will tell you volunteer members not preachers run churches. But without a community centered and influenced by faithful Gospel preaching there’s no life-changing basis for service. We may as well volunteer to serve in community humanitarian project.
For this reason I think these three arms must converge to get me out of the house. There’s a desire to hear from God as the Gospel is taught from the Bible. To sit and serve in a community lead and informed by the Gospel. The church community unlike a social club is not based merely on shared ideals and ambitions but a people built and informed by the Gospel. Service is not just for fulfilment or to earn points with God but an overflow of the Gospel teaching. And the sermon isn’t just a presentation or entertainment slot but a meal time for the Gospel community.
If we idolize any of these the local church will be in serious danger in our virtual world. Where preaching is all that matters then I won’t feel the need to bear with unclear and unpolished preachers when I could easily turn on the TV. And I will detest the local church even more when I have to serve and live among difficult sinful people. On the other hand, if community is all I want then soon I’ll find people who fit my ideology and they don’t have to call themselves a church. In any case I can stream services and catch up with friends later. And serving where the church isn’t built on Gospel preaching in a Gospel community makes no lasting difference. You might do more helping in an orphanage.
I would like to confess that I’m in the category that is prone to sometimes value good faithful preaching far and above Gospel community. Maybe serving comes second as a response to the Gospel. But such a view sees a Jesus who only made sermons and went home. It misses all the time spent with hard hearted disciples who would later desert, betray and deny him. And yet he died for them and went after them first thing after his resurrection.
I’m preparing to teach Exodus in the coming weeks and you can’t read Old Testament and miss how God values community. God’s people cannot merely be defined by preaching good sermons. God’s people are called into a Gospel community, to be a community set apart for God. The two go together.
5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
The church is not a preaching class but a Gospel community set apart for God. But those who sacrifice good Gospel preaching for community need to be warned of another community that sacrificed the Saviour to keep the peace of the community. The value of community and unity though priceless for God’s people can also become a snare where Gospel Truth is not the foundation. And we cannot afford to sacrifice faithful Gospel preaching for a get-along society otherwise we miss why we exist in the first place. If we tread on that path then our high priests will soon crucify the Gospel to keep their positions.
49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
As we walk back to church my prayer is that we’ll go back joyous and thankful for this freedom. But also with a renewed commitment to Gospel preaching, the Gospel community and ready to roll our sleeves to serve the church family wholeheartedly. To be quick to listen and built up by God’s Word through the preaching and ministry of the church family. But also ready to be corrected and rebuked from the Gospel by the church community. We need the church family for our growth and sanctification more than we realize. And after spending a lot of time without meeting physically you can be sure we’ve picked up bad habits for our soul that need a gentle rebuke.
I pray the Lord will help us whatever our blind spots are when it comes to our view of the local church. That God’s Word will capture our hearts, minds and hands to serve God and his people without hesitation. I pray we’ll quickly move past bad habits picked up from the Livestream couch. To not expect to be served but to delight in serving others. To not only feed but also be a blessing to the church family. To not only complain but participate. To be quick to receive rebuke from our brothers and sisters in Christ and slow to take offence. That’s what makes the local church different in a consumerist world especially when we can get everything we want virtually.