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!

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Zambian Reformed Conferences--Fourth Day


I have been running late in posting but I hope this is not too late. I was back at the Reformed School of Theology yesterday, which is one of the two meetings taking place simultaneously with the Reformed Family Conference. For the morning sessions, I relied on feedback from Billy Sichone, as I was unable to attend any of the sessions. In the first session, Thabiti Anyabwile preached from 1 John 2:15-17, continuing his theme on “Finding Assurance”. He answered three questions:

The first question was, “Who do we love?” He identified the two possible objects of our love—God or the world, God or mammon (Matthew 6:24). He defined the word “world”, which is used in different ways in the Bible, as a system of thought that is at enmity with God. Creation in itself is good and must be enjoyed by us. However, when it takes the place of God it becomes a snare and a sin.

Thabiti Anyabwile teaching church leaders on "Finding Assurance"
The second question was, “How do we know if we love God or the world?” We know what we love when we check our motivations. We can be motivated by our love of the world. We can also be motivated by our love for God. When the latter is the case, we find assurance building up within us.

The third question was, “Where is our love taking us?” This love that we have should be in God and must be an abiding love. A time is coming when we shall be in heaven and will love God with an everlasting love. Satan often discourages us when we discover that our love is not what it should be. We must not be discouraged because our love grows with time—until it is consummated in heaven.

Don Carson teaching church leaders on "Fighting Temptation"
Don Carson handled the second session. He dealt with the temptation of Peter from Galatians 2. Peter was quite a mixture of belief and unbelief. He rebuked Jesus for saying he was going to die after saying, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Peter assured Jesus that even if everyone denied him he would remain faithful but it was not long before he denied him. And now in Galatians 2 he was eating with Gentiles but now he stopped. So, how do we understand this?

There were two circumcision groups: The unbelieving Jews, and the believing Jews who were conservative. It was possible that the team from James may have been the second group and had asked Peter to withdraw from Gentiles to reduce the rippling effect his eating with Gentiles was having in Jerusalem. The reason why Paul opposed him was because (1) it was going against the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus’ death on the cross, (2) it was splitting the church, (3) Peter was acting out of a false understanding of Scripture which would have led to wrong decisions. We are also in similar danger.

Don ended by exhorting us to keep studying the Scriptures daily in order to avoid falling prey to such temptations. False theology has terrible consequences.

Thabiti Anyabwile teaching on Islam in the afternoon plenary seminar
In the afternoon, Thabiti Anyabwile took a plenary seminar on Islam. He first shared his testimony about how he got converted from Islam to Christianity. Then he gave a brief history of Islam. He began with the Prophet Muhammad and went up to the standardising of the Qur’an and the coming up with the “constitution” of Islam, i.e. the Sharia law. He went on to give some basics on Islam, which included the current statistics, the articles of Faith, and the five pillars of Islam. He spoke about Islam’s view of Christianity. Thabiti finally made some suggestions for gospel witness to Moslems. There were a lot of questions asked, which clearly showed that Islam was a matter of real concern to many.

Collins Sakalunda leading worship in the evening plenary meeting
Collins Sakalunda led the evening plenary session. Ray Warwick spoke on the African Christian University (ACU). He gave the history of the university, the ethos of the university, the appointments of management and staff, and the progress that had been made thus far in the establishment of the university.

John Chundu, the board chairman of the ACU, also came on to emphasise the fact that the ACU is a Zambian initiative. So, he challenged those present to begin thinking about supporting the ACU in prayer, finances, etc.

Ray Warwick speaking on the African Christian University
Michael Hudson, a brother who attends these conferences every year all the way from the UK, sang his signature song, “It is well with my soul.”

Bill Issa shared about the work that he is doing in Uganda. He talked about his conversion and his “journey in grace”. His excitement could not be missed as he talked about coming from Islam into charismatic chaos, and later finding not only the Reformed Faith but also a Reformed family here in Zambia.

John Chundu speaking about the African Christian University
Finally, it was time to listen to the preaching of the word of God. Don Carson preached on "Fighting Temptation" from James 1:12-25. He began by narrating two stories. The first was about a preacher who fell into adulterous affairs in three different pastorates and was evidently unrepentant after each situation. The other served God faithfully in the medical field but went through trial after trial as he lost all his children and yet ended up very grateful for God’s grace. Don asked the question, “Which one of these two would you like to be?”

After an uneasy silence, he proceeded to state that in order to be helped to come out graceful and not bitter after temptation and trial, it was important to learn three lessons from this passage.

Bill Issa speaking about his "journey in grace" in Uganda
1. When you are struggling under trial remember the Christian's goals (v.12). Trials produce perseverance and perseverance produces character. It is under trial that we toughen up (v.2-4). Then there is the eternal reward that is called "the crown of life". These are goals we should think about under trial.

2. When you confess God's sovereignty do not misunderstand God's motives (v.13). The word “trial” and the word “temptation” in the Greek here is the same word. It is the context that determines how to translate it. God tests us to prove our faith, to lower our pride, etc., but he never does so to induce us to sin. He is holy and he wants his people to be holy. Instead of blaming God, understand that it is our sinful nature that makes us to sin (v.14-15).

Michael Hudson singing his signature song, "It is well with my soul"
3. When you feel abandoned and crushed do not forget God's goodness (v.16-18). God is good all the time. The greatest display of God's goodness is in our new birth (v.18). He saved us through the gospel by his own choice.

4. When you hear gospel instruction do not merely listen to it but live it out (v.19-21). The gospel in the Bible is the big category in which discipleship grows. The gospel motivates us to seek to be conformed to the image of Christ. We must, therefore, seek to obey its injunctions (v.22-25).

Having taught us these four lessons, Don asked the question again, “Do you want to be like man number one or man number two?” It was now easier to answer!

Don Carson giving the evening address on "Fighting Temptation"

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