Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The 2nd Day at the Zambian Annual Reformed Conference

After doing the transporting rounds, I settled down in the Reformed School of Theology. For those of you who might not know, the Zambian Annual Reformed Conference actually comprises two parallel conferences. The first is the Reformed Family Conference and the second is the Reformed School of Theology.

Voddie Baucham
At the Reformed School of Theology, I found Voddie preaching on the cross-centred life through the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. He gave us a wonderful overview of the epistle. He argued that the first half was about the indicatives (what God has done for us in Christ) and the second half was about the imperatives (what God wants us to do in the light of what Christ has done for us).

Voddie Baucham preaching at the Reformed School of Theology
Voddie showed that there were three crescendos in the first three chapters, with the third and final one being the crescendo for the whole first section. The first crescendo at the end of chapter one was Christ’s headship over his body. The second crescendo, which is at the end of chapter two, was the unity in Christ’s body. The third crescendo, which is at the end of chapter three, was the glory that the body gives to its head.

Voddie went on to show that chapter four had general and practical imperatives. These were based on the indicatives of chapter one to three. Hence, Paul kept bringing in the indicatives again and again even when he was dealing with the imperatives in this second section of the book. He asserted that once you forget the indicatives, your Christian life goes into works-righteousness instead of grace-righteousness. It is the latter which is the cross-centred life.

Pastor Binwell Chibesa (Mongu) leading in the School of Theology
Voddie ended today’s message by pleading with pastors to preach the gospel. He said that we should not just preach against sin. To stop there is to produce legalists who not only still sin against God but also steal his glory because they are seeking to keep the law by their efforts. We must also preach the cross because it makes people seek righteousness based on what Christ has done.

Jonathan Sims
After the morning break, Jonathan Sims came over to the Reformed School of Theology. He expounded Philippians 2:1-11.  He asserted that the context of this passage was unity in the church. Therefore, as rich as it is in doctrine on person of the Son of God, we must not lose sight of its main thrust. The radical steps that God took to reach us are the same radicals steps we should take to reach one another. The cross of Jesus Christ is our supreme example for unity in the church.

Jonathan expounded the doctrine of the pre-existent Christ. Jesus had no beginning. He was equal with God. He is very God of very God. It is this Creator who became a creature.

Jonathan Sims preaching at the Reformed School of Theology
Jonathan then expounded the doctrine of the humiliated Christ, beginning with the incarnation. He asserted that this was a mystery. We cannot fully comprehend it. Jesus did not insist on keeping his “rights” as God, but humbled himself. We must be like him if we are going to ensure church unity.  Jesus made himself of no reputation. He was not forced to do so but he did it willingly. Yet we are too concerned about what people think about us. If we could only take care of our characters, God would take care of our reputations.

While still on Christ’s humiliation, Jonathan asserted that Jesus was found in fashion like a man. He did not cease to be God but became a man. He did not stop being what he was but became what he was not. He did all this because he wanted to become a sympathetic Saviour. If God was willing to go to such lengths for us, then we too must go to such radical lengths for the wellbeing of others.

As Jesus reached the bottom of the ladder, Jonathan painted the horror of the suffering of the Saviour, especially in the hours leading to his final death. In the light of the display of such love and humiliation, he pleaded with us to also go to the uttermost to display patience and tender-heartedness towards one another.

George Kafukwanya leading worship during the combined evening meeting
Jonathan pointed out that God also used the glorification of Jesus Christ as a further motivation for unity in the body of Christ. In the light of Jesus’ deity, his incarnation, his suffering, and his return, he asked us how we hoped to justify your insistence on having your own way—even when it destroys church unity.

In the afternoon, after two hours of lunch and siesta, we had a number of seminars at the Reformed Family Conference. There were two seminars on church-based ministries and two on marriage and family. Then the Reformed School of Theology had a panel discussion where a number of Zambian pastors answered questions from the floor related to the life of the church. I will skip the details of all this to avoid this blog post becoming too long.

Voddie Baucham preaching at the combined evening meeting
Voddie Baucham again
In the evening, the Reformed Family Conference and Reformed School of Theology come together for a plenary session. This evening, Voddie Baucham addressed us. He preached about the various approaches the world gives to solving the problems that human beings face. The world thinks that man’s problem is outside himself while the solution is inside him. The Bible teaches the reverse, that man’s problem is inside him and the solution is outside him.

Man’s basic problem is his alienation from God. God said, “Dying, you shall die.” This was the judgment of God. Sin brings shame but we still try to justify it. We are aware that what we are doing is wrong. As our consciences get hardened, we go from justifying sin to approving it and finally celebrating it (Romans 1:18ff).

Part of the congregation during the combined evening meetings
Voddie showed that beyond degradation there is death. The first type of death was that of Abel in Genesis 4, caused by a sinful action. The second type of death in Genesis 5 was that of Adam himself, after almost a thousand years (giving the impression that God may have forgotten to carry out his judgment against him). The third type of death was in the flood of Noah when God killed all sinners but eight. The message from heaven is very clear: God is just and he must judge sin.

This is why the cross is inevitable (Genesis 3:15). The promise of God in this text shows that man cannot save himself. Human beings cannot improve themselves. God alone is able to provide the way out. In this text we also see the violence and the victory of the cross. There is a crushing and a bruising (Colossians 2:13). God has provided a Saviour (not a nation, a deliverer, a conquering general, a judge, a kingdom, or a king) and he is the only answer for our problem. He deals with the greatest need, which is inside us. He alone can deal with it. Therefore we must determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. His cross is what Zambia, Africa, America, and Europe. We all need Jesus.

What a glorious sermon, and what a great ending to a day of spiritual feasting. We have only just begun to look at the cross-centred life. It is evident that we are in for a great feast this year. Join me again tomorrow as I summarise the day’s events. Ala, God is good!

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