A peep into life in Africa, through the eyes of an African Reformed Baptist pastor.

Water, water, water, everywhere. What else do you expect? I am a Baptist, and I live in the land of the mighty Victoria Falls!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Final Day at the Zambian Annual Reformed Conference

We finally got to the last day of the conference—a great relief to any organising team but a cause of sorrow for those who are thoroughly enjoying a conference. “Must we part so soon?” was the thought on many minds. Yes, all good things must come to an end, except heaven. Hence, this is a foretaste of what heaven’s fellowship will be like. For the sake of this blog post, I attended the Reformed Family Conference track today.

Jonathan Sims
Jono preached from Matthew 20:12 on the bruised reed and smoking flax. His sermon explained a number of truths about a bruised reed and a smoking flax. Matthew applied this statement from the Isaiah to the Lord Jesus Christ. A bruised reed or a smoking flax is a person who has been awakened to his sinful state and cries to the Saviour for the salvation. Jesus will not break a bruised reed nor put out a smoking flax.

A happy couple (the Mwenyas) on the last day of the Reformed Conference
The ministry of the Pharisees was the opposite. In hypocrisy, they majored on breaking bruised reeds and putting out smoking flax.  Religious people often do this by their impossibly high expectations. Jesus did not operate that way. He did not extinguish the least hope. Rather, he fanned the smoking flax that the Pharisees were extinguishing until the flame turned into a blaze. (Jono gave example after example of how Jesus did this to people against the attitude of the Pharisees when he was on earth).

Jono appealed to those who were discouraged and broken to remember that Jesus will not extinguish them. Rather he will stir the gifts that he has put in them. He urged us to come to the last hope, which is the only true hope—Jesus Christ. God allows us to become bruised reeds and smoking flax so that we can stop trusting in ourselves. Bruised reeds are tender and pliable. That is a good state for God to pour in his grace.

Jono preached in the Family Conference track and the joint evening meeting
Jono said that when we feel weak we should trust the Word of God that he will not totally finish us off. Jesus is not just the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but he is also a Lamb. He does not roar at bruised reeds and smoking flax. Even the best of Christians is a bruised reed—a sinner saved by grace. When you are going through doubts, remember that even the best Christians go through doubts. So, welcome to the Christian life!

Jono said that in every one of us grace is mingled with corruption. It is this corruption that leaves us bruised internally. David committed adultery and murder and it looked like his flax was going to be snuffed out, but God gave him a second chance when he repented of his sins. He did not break the bruised reed or snuff out the smoking flax. Let us depend on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ as we meet the challenges of each day.

"Pastor Zulu" preached his final sermon in the Family Conference track
Jono ended by saying that when we get to heaven, all the bruised reeds will be totally healed and all the smoking flax will be ablaze with fire because of the grace of the Lord Jesus.  The reeds will be strong and the flax will be bright to the glory of God.

“From victory unto victory his army shall he lead
Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.”

Young (Reformed but not so restless) people getting their lunch
Voddie Baucham
After break, “Pastor Zulu” called our attention to the last chapter of Ephesians. He addressed us on the subject of spiritual warfare. He warned us that we would not learn what we have come to associate with this topic today—i.e. casting out demons, etc. We are ever in danger of either over-estimating or under-estimating spiritual warfare. 

“Pastor Zulu” cautioned us that in bringing in the topic of spiritual warfare at this point in his epistle, Paul was not suggesting that the work of Christ had come to an end and now you must fight for yourself. These imperatives were still dependent on indicatives pointing to what God had already done for us in Christ.

Paul Lupunga leading the singing during the combined evening meeting
“Pastor Zulu” then drew our attention to the field of our spiritual warfare. The first under this was our resources—the Lord’s power and the Lord’s armour. Our adversaries are in the heavenly places. In chapter 1:3, 2:6, 3:10, we see that God has blessed us and we are seated with Christ “in the heavenly places”. Our goal is to stand firm.  It is the opposite of being tossed to and fro by winds and waves. Jesus has already won the war and all we are doing is standing firm against his enemies.

“Pastor Zulu” then drew our attention to the fight of our spiritual warfare. The first under this was our uniform. He explained the various parts. The truth was part of our uniform (4:15, 17). Then there was also Christ as our righteousness. We were exhorted to put on the shoes that make us ready with the gospel of peace. Then there was the shield of faith, the breastplate of salvation, the sword of the Word of God, and prayer. These were our weapons and they were all of a spiritual nature.

Ken Turnbull sharing on the mammoth African Christian University project
“Pastor Zulu” pointed to our purpose in this fight. We needed to recognise the body by praying for the other soldiers. We are engaged in a common spiritual warfare. Hence, we are to pray for all the saints. This battle is not to be fought in isolation. He ended by pointing to our victory in this fight. “Pastor Zulu” asserted that the most effective, powerful, and active spiritual warfare that we can engage in is planting churches. This is one of the most effective ways to ensure that “demons are cast out” because wherever the Word of God is regularly preached that is where Satan is cast out.

Jonathan Sims
At the start of the evening meeting, Ken Turnbull shared with us on the mammoth African Christian University project. Ken was visibly unwell but drew on his last strength in order to appeal to us to get involved. Then James Williamson shared on the Copperbelt Ministerial College and the Lusaka Ministerial College, which are training men for the pastoral ministry under the oversight of our Reformed Baptist churches.

James Williamson sharing on the CMC and LMC pastoral training projects
Finally, Jono ended this conference by preaching on the famous seven sayings of the Saviour on the cross. He said that the first saying was, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” This was about the cause of the cross. It is about how sinners can find pardon with the living God. He came to make atonement for our sins.

The second saying was, “Today you shall be with me in paradise”. One of the two thieves expressed repentance towards God (in the expression, “Don’t you fear God?”) and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We see in Jesus’ response the compassion of the Saviour.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day
And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away

Part of the evening attendance during the singing of a hymn
The third saying revealed the concern of Jesus. This was when he saw his mother and said, “John, behold your mother…mother, behold your son”. He encouraged us about our culture of taking in the orphans and the elderly into our homes to look after them.

The fourth saying records the curse of Christ. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” What was happening was so horrible that God literally turned off the lights. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that we could be made the righteousness of God. In that dark hour, Jesus was bearing the curse of sin. God thus forsook him. He bore the full wrath of God for us. Jono warned those who had not yet taken refuge in Christ that they would experience this wrath for all eternity.

Pastor Grave Singogo thanking all for their various roles in this conference
The fifth saying records the condition of Christ on the cross: “I thirst”. He had been scourged before Pilate a few hours earlier. Jono went into gruesome details about what this scourging was like, including the carrying of the cross, the pulling off of his beard, the nailing of his hands and feet, etc. It was as a result of this that he said, “I thirst”.

The sixth saying revealed the complete work of Jesus: “It is finished”. Jesus died to secure the salvation of those whom the father had given him.  On the cross, Jesus did not only accomplish a potential atonement but a particular atonement. He purchased our souls with his blood.

Voddie and his family pose for a photo with part of the Namibian delegation
The seventh saying was a word of confidence: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. Having said these words, he gave up his spirit. He was confident that he would in due season break the bands of death and rise again.

Up for the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph over his foes
He arose a victor in the dark domain and he lives forever with his saints to reign
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose!

With these words, the 22nd Zambian Annual Reformed Conference came to an end. The fellowship had been sweet. The preaching was glorious. The cross-centred life had been exhibited. And now it was up to us to rise to the challenge of living out such a life. If the Lord tarries, we look forward to yet another gospel feast at this time next year. Amen!

2 comments:

  1. I really had a wonderful experience at the conference, the messages were so powerful and I have really been ministered to. May the name of the Lord be praised.

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  2. Though due to providential circumstances, I missed a large chunk of the conference, I was greatly ministered to and am sure many others will echo the words of Pastor Mbewe that "The fellowship had been sweet. The preaching was glorious. The cross-centred life had been exhibited. And now it was up to us to rise to the challenge of living out such a life. If the Lord tarries, we look forward to yet another gospel feast at this time next year. Amen!"

    ReplyDelete