Today, for the sake of this blog, I attended the Reformed Family Conference track of the Zambian Annual Reformed Conference. Due to the transport rounds I had to do in the early part of the morning, I again missed the prayer meeting and arrived as Jonathan Sims was commencing his sermon. He was preaching on sanctification from Romans 5.
Jonathan’s concern was to show the cross-centred life being about a Spirit-empowered handling of suffering. He pointed out the fact that “tribulation worketh patience” (“suffering produces endurance”—ESV). Difficulties build endurance in the lives of believers. Where there is no pain there is no gain. Therefore, we ought to rejoice in our suffering. This is bearing the cross in obedience to Christ and following in his steps.
|Jonathan Sims preaching in the Reformed Family Conference track|
We went up one more step: “Patience (produces) experience” (“Endurance produces character”—ESV). We all need people who have been trained by suffering because that gives us confidence that God will see us through also. “Experience [produces] hope” (“Character produces hope”—ESV) simply means that our previous experience of God’s upholding grace in suffering builds up within us a sense of hope that he will do it again for us when the chips are down.
Jonathan then showed us that this hope keeps us from being ashamed. In the midst of all this, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts”. This makes us not ashamed to speak with confidence concerning God despite our present suffering. Thus we can even speak of God’s electing love even in suffering. This does not mean we should go looking for suffering. Just live for Jesus and you will have enough suffering to handle in your life.
“Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.”
|Misheck Kumwenda leading the singing in the Family Conference track|
After break, Voddie Baucham came over to the Family Conference and it was clear that he was continuing the series he had been taking in the School of Theology. He began by giving an overview of what he had covered the day before. It was familiar to me because that was what he covered in the School of Theology yesterday.
In this message, he commenced with Ephesians 4:25, where Paul deals with the need for Christians to be truthful. It is evident from this passage that the imperative (“speak the truth”) is dependent on the indicative (“for you are members of one another”). He went on to point out that anger is a God-given emotion that must be expressed against sin and done to God’s glory. Yet it was possible to be angry to the point where you sin. Voddie gave at least three ways in which this often happens, e.g. being made angry at work but coming home and pouring your anger on your innocent wife and children.
|Voddie Baucham preaching in the Reformed Family Conference track|
In the same way he expounded Paul’s injunction not to steal and not to allow corrupt talk to come out of our mouths. He ended by explaining how we grieve the Holy Spirit. Refusal to forgive is refusal to obey a direct command from God. It is hypocritical. How can you fail to forgive when God has freely forgiven you? It is, finally, dishonouring to the body. But what is forgiveness? It is the cancellation of a debt that you are owed.
Voddie dealt with a number of myths related to forgiveness. The first is that you only forgive those who ask for forgiveness. He used the example of Joseph in Genesis, and that of the paralytic whom Jesus forgave without asking for forgiving, and the example of Jesus on the cross. He ended by arguing that if God dealt with us on this principle, then we would never have a permanent assurance of salvation because we do not always remember to ask for his forgiveness when we sin against him.
|Part of the congregation in the Reformed Family Conference track|
The second was the myth of “forgive and forget”. Human beings were not created to forget. Human beings only forget when their brains are malfunctioning. To fail to forgive is like drinking poison, hoping that someone else dies. He dealt with two other myths, but I failed to catch them as I was still processing the previous two myths in my head.
Voddie ended by saying that the fact that you have forgiven someone does not mean that you should not report him or her to the authorities. Also, if you forgive someone who sexually assaulted you, it does not mean you should send your daughter to his home without supervision. That is folly and not forgiveness!
|A small boy processing his own thoughts during our hymn singing|
The afternoon was spent listening to reports from churches about how the Lord has been dealing with them. There was a report from Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, and Botswana. Then there were reports from newer works within Zambia—Monze, Kapiri Mposhi, Solwezi, etc.
In the evening, “Brother Jono” (as Jonathan Sims is affectionately called) preached from Galatians 6:14. He told us that he had come to boast in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. He said the context in which the letter was written was a combating against works of the law (e.g. circumcision) instead of relying on Christ’s finished work on the cross.
|Kabwata Baptist Church choir singing a hymn during the evening meeting|
Paul gives four reasons to boast in the cross of Christ. The first is that only the cross can overcome the world. It accomplishes a twofold crucifixion. Crucifixion hangs someone up until he dies. Paul was crucified to the world and the world to him. By “world” he means the sinful system of this world. It is totally antithetical to God and to Christ.
Jono pointed out afresh that the cross also makes the world no longer attractive to the Christian. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. You cannot love both God and mammon. The cross ensures that even the Christian despises the world. We need to regularly go back to the cross and taken inventory. Has the world become crucified to us and are we crucified to the world?
|Jonathan Sims preaching during the evening combined meeting|
The second reason for boasting in the cross was that only the cross is able to make us into a new creation (v.15). The third reason was that only the cross gives life meaning and purpose (v.16). This fills us with peace and mercy from God. The fourth reason is because only the cross identifies us as belonging to Jesus (v.17). We carry the stigma of Jesus. We are bond slaves of Jesus Christ. This is an act of grace from our great God.
Again, a wonderful day ended with our souls ravished in the things of God. What a privilege we have to be the elect of God! Through the cross of Christ, he has given us everything that we need as we journey to heaven. What shall we say? God is good!