Prosperity Gospel: A New and Strange Gospel

Churches in Africa have become a hub of a new gospel. Most of our churches are no longer preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ but a new gospel that has no cross in it but that which emphasizes health, wealth and happiness. In almost every city, this gospel has already taken root and is spreading like bush-fire to the villages.

The effect of the gospel has come as a result of new technology that has exposed many unsuspecting followers to western false preachers who are propagators of this teaching. Every day, there are hundreds of trending messages of this gospel in every social media that contains some grain of biblical truth, and that is appealing to the natural human desire. Most of us follow them for we have little knowledge of biblical doctrine and thus we are ‘ripe for accepting the distorted teachings.’

The new gospel is frustrating the work of the early faithful missionaries to Africa who preached the gospel simply and uncomplicated, yet powerful. These missionaries put the Cross of Christ at the center of their preaching, calling Africans to deny their barbaric cultures which were not saving at all and to put their faith in Christ Jesus, our only Savior. Our forefathers heard the gospel and accepted it, but we are slowly drifting away from this truth. We now believe a softer gospel that is comforting, satisfying and appealing to our immediate appetites.

In his book, Preachers of a Different Gospel, Femi Adeleye calls Prosperity Gospel a ‘gospel of greed that has no room for the cross and suffering.’ He continues to say that this gospel is silent on pain and suffering because it has no theology for it. It is sad to see people gathering every Sunday to get a user-friendly gospel that has no room for the real Jesus of the Cross. Many prosperity preachers as Femi notes ‘has created a new Jesus whose aim to come to the world was to make people comfortable and to guarantee their security.’

Western prosperity preachers have had large impact on propagating this new gospel in Africa. In their book Health, Wealth and Happiness, Jones and Woodbridge notes that many African believers equate Christian faith with wealth noting that this influence comes from Americans’ affluence and prosperity, hence making many native preachers to take up the prosperity message.

Sadly, the many followers of prosperity gospel get realities of life but remain lost in their sins since this gospel has lost the emphasis of repentance in believer’s life. The new gospel has replaced the gospel that emphasized contrition and repentance with ‘self-esteem.’ As an effect, there is a new breed of strange Christians who have lost awe in the presence of God. Everyone can preach, and no emphasis on character and conduct. Many live in sin from Monday to Saturday and yet lead others in worship on Sunday. It is OK to lead in worship and continue in sin.

Prosperity gospel is a short cut to good things of life and contradicts the essence of biblical faith. There is no better way to recover lost ground than rejecting all falsehood and returning to Biblical truth. May this be the commitment of every preacher, and of course of every member of any church!

(This is the first post in a series on Prosperity Gospel)
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William Tyndale: A man who laid down his life to see the Bible translated

Have you ever appreciated having the Bible in a language you can understand? If you don’t, you need to! Do you know there was time in history when it was a crime having an English translation of the Bible? Those in possession of whole or any part of the English translation were condemned to death.Bible trNSLTN

I didn’t love autobiographies, my ignorance to history has in the past robbed me an opportunity to learn and appreciate things as we see them today. Thanks to iServe Africa where I have been nurtured in reading about the lives of early church fathers who risked their lives for the gospel.

John Piper in his book, Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ connected me to William Tyndale, an English scholar who became a leading figure in Protestant reform in the years leading up to his execution. Tyndale risked his life to translate the Scriptures into English, giving us a reason to appreciate God that we can read the Bible in our own vernacular languages.

Passion for Bible Translation

william_tyndaleWilliam Tyndale at the age of 28 had a great passion to translate the New Testament to ordinary English that all his compatriots would read and understand the scriptures. He sought permission and funds from the bishop of London, and instead the church opposed his idea of translating the Bible. He even had to ran away to exile for 7 years, in fear of his life.

King of England then, King Henry VIII, desired that Tyndale would come back to England out of hiding, but Tyndale would insist that he would go back to England if only the King would authorize him and give his official endorsement to a vernacular Bible for his subjects to read. John Piper notes that ‘Vernacular Bible for English subjects’ was the note that Tyndale always sung.

Tyndale efforts bring reformation

In 1525, while in exile, Tyndale managed to produce the first English translation of New Testament from Greek and smuggled it into England in bales of clothes. The translation was the beginning of a transformation, people were able to read and understand the scriptures in their language! They no longer depended on their priests to read the Bible for them. This was against the early church tradition where it was believed that only the priests were given the divine grace to understand the scriptures.

Tyndale efforts were able to give many a chance to understand scriptures. For many years, the only translation of the Greek and Hebrew Bible was Latin Vulgate, and a few people could understand it, even if they had access to it. At 42 years, Tyndale was tied to the stake and then strangled by the executioner; afterwards the fire consumed him. He died with a prayer, that the Lord would open the eyes of the King of England. And yes God did answer his prayer and King James I ordered translation of the Bible that had nine tenths of Tyndale’s work giving rise to the famous King James Version.

Suffering for the Gospel

William Tyndale shows what it means to suffer for Christ. He who laid down his life for us; therefore we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren. “In times of suffering, we ought to have faith and pray to the Father in the Name of Jesus, and he will ease our pain, or shorten it,” Tyndale advises us.

BIBLESSSSAll Glory to God in that the Bible has been translated into many languages from the biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. As of last year, the full Bible was translated into 531 languages, and 2,883 languages have at least some portion of the Bible.

 

Article by Kenneth Irungu
iServe Africa Apprentice 
Serving at DOVE Christian Fellowship, Kawangware. 

 

PHILEMON: Substitution Simply Applied

A story of one man, Saint Maximilian Kolbe is an interesting story, first raised to my attention by John Stott in his book, The cross of Christ, in his explanation of ‘substitution’. he died2During Second World War, Kolbe was arrested for hiding Jews and sent to Auschwitz detention camp.

One morning, one of his fellow detainees escaped and the authorities decided to starve 10 of the detainees to death. As they walked out, one of the culprits sobbed, ‘My poor wife! My poor children! What will they do?‘ When he uttered this cry of dismay, Kolbe stepped forward silently, stood before the commandant and said, ‘Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.‘ What a man, Kolbe, volunteering to die in place of a stranger.

In my reading about Kolbe, I was moved by the statement of the man whom Kolbe died in his place.

“I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me – a stranger. Is this some dream? I was put back into my place without having had time to say anything to Maximilian Kolbe. I was saved. And I owe to him the fact that I could tell you all this. For a long time I felt remorse when I thought of Maximilian. By allowing myself to be saved, I had signed his death warrant. But now, on reflection, I understood that a man like him could not have done otherwise.”

As a Christian, I can relate to this. Someone was substituted and died on my behalf. The notion of substitution is that one person takes the place of another. This is what Paul does in his letter to Philemon, as he tries to reconcile him with his runway servant, Onesimus. In verse 18-19, he tells Philemon:

If Onesimus has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me…I will pay it back to you… (Philemon 1:18-19)

Every time I read these verses, I am moved! What does Paul say here, that he is ready to pay everything Onesimus had stolen from his master? This is a great sign of commitment in reconciling these two brothers in the Lord.

Paul here drives home an important point for all Christians- Substitution!  We all need to appreciate and should be forever grateful to God for substituting our wrath with Jesus, making one who had no sin to become a sin for us, the righteous dying for the unrighteous. He paid our debt; he laid his life as a ransom for us.charge that

Paul shows Philemon what it means to lay down one’s life for another. “Charge everything he owes you to me,” he says confidently reminding Philemon that he preached gospel to him too.

There is no other better and simpler way to say it than that Jesus died on our place, he took the wrath we deserved and imputed on us his righteousness. We, just as Onesimus can stand before Philemon, owe our righteous standing before God entirely to the cross of Christ, through whom our sins are forgiven.

At the cross of Christ, we have our pride broken, our guilt removed, our love kindled, our hope restored and our character transformed. We join Isaac Watts in saying,Us and Cross

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

(This is the third article on a series on Philemon, click the link to find the others: Philemon: A letter worth a thought and Philemon: A Rich Prison Epistle)

By Kenneth Irungu
iServe Africa apprentice placed at DOVE Christian Fellowship, Kawangware.

 

 

 

Philemon: A Rich Prison Epistle

Philemon is one of Paul’s ‘prison epistle’—a letter written while he was imprisoned for preaching Jesus Christ as Lord. Even in the face of persecution, prison bars could not contain Paul’s zeal for the gospel. letter penIn this letter to Philemon, as we noted in last post here, he pleaded for mercy and forgiveness for a runaway slave.

Paul urges Philemon to accept back his servant Onesimus as a brother in the Lord, though he was once useless to him. Useless since he probably have stolen from him some large amount of money and then ran away. From this letter, we note few things.

God’s Sovereign Choice

First, we see God acting sovereignly in separating Philemon and Onesimus so that the latter would meet Paul, and be transformed by the gospel. The separation of the master and the servant, even before the latter had finished his term of service to Philemon shows God’s sovereignty in everything. It is through the separation that Onesimus meets Paul, who preaches the Good News of Jesus Christ.

God is sovereign over all. It is good for us to acknowledge him sovereign over our lives.

Reconciliation between brethren

Secondly, we note that Paul develops the theme of reconciliation in this letter more than any other theme. letterPaul opens the letter by expressing his gratitude to Philemon for his love of Christ. Philemon’s love and faith in God, as Paul notes, was immense and had refreshed many. Paul urged Philemon to open his heart and reconcile with the ‘once useless man’ by accepting him back as a dear brother. Though they had some differences, Paul notes that reconciliation is inevitable, just as Christ reconciled both of them to God.

Once we understand the gospel, it will be easier for us to reconcile with others. Paul banked on the gospel to help Philemon reconcile back with Onesimus.

Believers as Beloved brothers!

No other statement in this letter that excites me than verse 16: so that you might have him back, no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother, a brother in the Lord. The earthly distinction between the master and the slave still holds, but more than that, both become brothers. Nothing else but the gospel would make it easier for Philemon to accept ran away servant back. Here, Paul makes it clear that believing in Christ makes both to be brothers in the Lord.

Paul introduces an important thing even for us here and now. Once gospel transforms us, we become brothers in the Lord. We need to be seeing fellow believers as dear and beloved brothers to us in the Lord. Always remembering we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, as Paul notes in his letter to Romans.

Keep posted here for the next article (the third) on this letter

By: Kenneth Irungu
iServe Africa Apprentice- DOVE Kawangware

PHILEMON: A Letter Worth a Thought!

Tucked somewhere in the Bible is a small letter from Paul to his dear friend Philemon. A very small letter, only 25 verses, but loaded with a great gospel message. A letter worth reading and rereading!
A letter we will think of here in a series of coming posts.

Background of the letter:
Paul introduces himself in verse 1 as the author of the letter together with his dear brother Timothy. What is most exciting about his introduction is his emphasis, also found in other of his letters, on ‘whose he is,’ a prisoner of Christ Jesus.letter pen

He writes this letter to a wealthy man whom he evangelized to sometime ago, a dear friend to him and a fellow worker. He then copied the letter to two more people- Apphia and Archippus, and to a home cell fellowship. Though, as we will note later, is a personal letter to Philemon, Paul makes it open letter to other individuals and to the church.

In verse 10, we are introduced to a young man named Onesimus, a man who was once useless regardless of his name meaning useful. It is in verse 16 that we learn that Onesismus was a bondservant to Philemon. However, Philemon and Onesimus separated after the latter ran away.

Onesismus is believed to have fled from Philemon after possibly stealing from him. It was during their time of separation that Onesimus came into contact with Paul, who preached to him the gospel and he believed. The gospel transformed Onesimus, making him useful to Paul by assisting him greatly while he was in prison as Paul notes in verse 13 and 14.

Paul knew that Onesimus had fled from Philemon, and as a bondservant, he need to go back to his master. He therefore gives himself to the task of reconciling servant Onesimus to his master Philemon. He writes him this letter, a dear letter from a spiritual father to a spiritual son pleading him to accept back a transformed servant.

Our Reflection:
What a letter?! Just thinking how Philemon must have received the letter, possibly with pleasure rather than with a frown. A letter from a dear friend, the one who preached the gospel to him, pleading with him to accept a man who had stolen from him, now not as a slave but as a dear brother!

It must have been a joyful moment to Onesimus, reconciling back with his master Philemon better than a slave to him- as a dear brother in the Lord. He must have been grateful to Paul, for even accepting to pay his debt or anything he owed to Philemon. But more grateful to Jesus, just as me and you- for dying for all our sins, past, present and future- and giving us an opportunity to became heirs of God and co-heirs with him (Christ).

 

(Be on the lookout for next Post on Theological Reflections we get in this Paul’s letter to Philemon)
By: Kenneth Irungu
iServe Africa Apprentice 2015/2016
At DOVE Christian Fellowship, Kawangware (Nairobi-Kenya)

Did you know Prayerlessness is Selfishness

Last Sunday was father’s day; I am confident am a good father in the making. ‘What kind of a father will I make?’ is a question I usually find myself thinking about regularly. What defines a good father? Is it material possessions or wealth? What exactly?!

I am thinking…A good father is a praying father. Too sad that I have grown up in a society where prayers is left for women. Someone advised me that one of the qualities of a good wife is a praying wife. I do not dispute this, but I think on the other hand, a praying father is a good quality too ladies should look on men who are the head of the family just like Christ is the head of the church.

PraaaayersWe all need to pray. Both men and women need to exercise their faith through prayers- the chief exercise of faith. The way we tell God we only rely on him. The only way we exhibit our inability and call upon God’s help. Prayers show our total dependence on God.

Prayerlessness is selfishness. A father who does not pray for his family is selfish father. A good father should always commit his wife and children to God. He should train them to trust and rely in God, even in the little things of life. He should always pray for to God for their forgiveness, sanctification, for their salvation, for their needs…etc.

A prayer less wife/mother is a selfish wife/mother. A wife who does not pray for her children is a selfish mother in that she does not teach them to trust in the Lord. She should always commit her family to God, always praying for skills to bring her children in godly manner. She should pray for husband and the children to always exalt Christ in everything they do.

Prayerlessness is selfishness for the church member who does not pray for the Lord’s grace to be extended to his friends, for those who are battling a specific sin and seeing both encouraging victories and heartbreaking failure. A selfish church member is the one who does not pray for his or her Pastor, to always preach the gospel and to always show and exalt Christ in all the sermons.

Prayerlessness is selfishness for the Christian who does not pray for his neighbors, that the Lord would save them and that the Lord would even use him as the one to share with them the good news of the gospel. A selfish Christian does not pray for missionaries too.

May God help us to get out of our selfishness because of our prayerlessness!

What else do you think exhibit prayerlessness as selfishness?

Open Up About Your Sin Pattern to Overcome It

The devil has known it. He has beaten us so well in this. He always tells us, “Keep it a secret. Do not share. What will people think of you? Lowly, of course! Please do keep it to yourself.”

3_29_CC_HOME__PatternsOfSinThe enemy wants us to stay in darkness. He does not want us to see light. He delights when we hide behind the door and continue living in our sins. He urges us to conceal our recurring sinful patterns assuring us that we will overcome them on our own. Satan discourages us from confessing our sin patterns with fellow believers.

“Other believers may not understand it. They don’t go through it themselves. We are the only one undergoing through these struggles,” the devil deceives us. He also convinces us that our sin is not too bad. We end up weakening the gravity of our sin, giving ourselves permission to continue in it.

It just “feels” more secure to hide than to come out in the open about our struggles with sin. We thus stay in the darkness, and here’s what we miss: the grace and love of God who is faithful to forgive our sins if we confess them to Him (1 John 1:9).

thJA0A1BM7A friend Pastor told me, “If you want to know where the devil is working in your life, share what your secrets are!” He got it right. My secrets, the ones I have successfully locked in the heart and lost the key as a friend joked, are the sinful patterns I always struggle with.

Here is Pastor and Blogger Chuck Lawless advice on fighting recurrent sin pattern;

Be honest with somebody about your struggles. I know that’s a risky step, but we don’t overcome sin patterns when we fight the battles alone. God has designed the church in such a way that we can lean on each other for help. Ask God to direct you to someone with whom you can confess your struggle (James 5:16). Then, trust that godly love, restoration, and forgiveness will trump the power of sin (Gal. 6:1).

Confession is never easy. It’s embarrassing and painful at times. Sometimes it just seems easier to stay in the darkness than it is to confess our wrong to somebody else. It is a lie that we are more secure if we hide our struggles with sin than if we come out. We accept this lie as truth and fall even more into recurrent sin patterns that cannot satisfy.

Let’s purpose to develop enough, strong and deep relationships with folks we trust, whom we can freely talk with about our sinful patterns- the first step of overcoming our sin patterns.

 

By Kenneth Irungu
iServe Africa Apprentice
Serving at DOVE Christian Fellowship, Kawangware