#iGospel – Disciples with Questionable Credentials

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Today we move to part 3 of the #iGospel Series. The title of our message is Disciples with Questionable Credentials. The question we are attempting to answer is this:

If The Gospel Of Jesus Is GOOD NEWS, Why Is it So Hard To Promote It In The World Today?

In an attempt to help us get to the bottom of the issue let me tell you about a movement that was started back in 1966 by a very powerful Christian evangelical body called the Lausanne Movement.

The story of Lausanne began with the evangelist Dr Billy Graham.(show picture of Billy Graham) As he started preaching internationally, he developed a passion to ‘unite all evangelicals in the common task of the total evangelization of the world’.

The Church, he believed, had to apply the Gospel to the contemporary world, and to work to understand the ideas and values behind rapid changes in society. He shared his thinking with 100 Christian leaders, drawn from all continents, and they affirmed the need. It would be a timely gathering.

The Credo of the Lausanne Movement which has met nearly every year in a different city since 1966 became: The Whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world! In October 2010 the meeting gathered in Cape Town, South Africa -198 countries were represented by 4500 delegates. The keynote speaker in the opening address asked a very pointing question: What do you think is the main thing that hinders the propagation of the Gospel to the world today?

Church leaders gathered in groups of 50s and came back after 2 hours with a variety of answers: Money, Globalization, Religious intolerance, Leadership, Secularism among others.

To everyone’s surprise the keynote speaker marked all of them wrong. His answer: The Church! According to him the Church had lost its passion for the last, the lost and the least in the word and had become significantly in looking thus compromising its power and potential to reach a dying world. 

On Thursday April 24th, 2014, an article appeared in the Daily Nation asking the bold question “Does God Exist? That’s one big ‘hoax’! The article read …”the existence of God is a big hoax according to a group of Kenyans who are now agitating for rational thoughts in decision making rather than adherence to religion….”

That a young, educated, respectable looking man can come out in public and declare that he is the president of a society that does not believe in God, in essence telling about 80% of our Nation that the God that they go to worship every Sunday does not exist, is an issue we ought to pay attention to. The issue is not so much that the President of the so called Atheist Society in Kenya would declare blatantly that God does not exist but that he has found space and opportunity to dare to tell it to you and me.

There is a theory in psychology called the “Broken Window Theory” that seeks to explain that if a criminal is planning to break into a building, they will first break a window and see how long it will take for it to be repaired. If it is repaired immediately the criminal would know that security is very high and they would move to another area where it would take two or three days to repair the broken window as they would know that security is lax. Criminals are known to test the waters or do research before they carry out an operation and it is possible that this is what the Atheist society in Kenya is doing to us today. It is not that Society and its adherents that are on the dock this morning/afternoon but it is you and I who claim to believe in a living God.

The word “Gospel” derives from the old English word god-spell meaning good news or glad tidings. The word comes from the Greek word ‘eungelion’ which means good news. The Gospel was considered the good news of the coming of the Kingdom of Messiah and of redemption through the life and death of Jesus who is the central figure of Christianity

If the Gospel is good news – why has it become so hard to promote it?

Let me tell you a story. For our purpose assume that it’s a true story and that Karen is the best part of Kenya to live in where land would be most expensive per acre …

An old man who is a neighbor of yours in Karenwho you probably don’t know too well has decided to dispose of the property he owns in Karen and you soon discover that he would like to sell 47 acres of his land at a staggering fee of K.Shs. 60,000 an acre! The land is next to a modern road; it has installed water and electricity, is near a police station and a major shopping mall and has free Wi-Fi. The titles are clean and ready. Your quick research has shown you that land in the area where this land is being disposed off goes for K.Shs. 20 million for a quarter of an acre. You have been invited by your neighbor to sit on a committee with 2 other people to announce this news to Kenyans and the old man’s wish is that a person can only purchase a maximum of an acre and he would desire that individuals from every county in Kenya would buy the land. The land will be sold on first come first served basis and the money needs to be paid to his account within 30 days….. What are you thinking sitting in that committee? 

Some people will be thinking this is an invasion of privacy, this is foolish, the old man has gone senile, etc

According to Jesus a sect of religious leaders called the Pharisees were such a committee. They met for a whole night with such a proposal before them and decided that selling the land at such a price was absolutely ridiculous! So as much as they could not change the fundamentals of what the old man had decided they recommended what in their view were a few minor changes.

Luke 15:11-32 

There are a few things to explain about this parable:

  1. The star of this story is the father not the son. In Bible literature the person who is mentioned first in a story is either the older or the central figure in the story. The father is mentioned first in this story and therefore he is the chief character in the story that we should track with.
  1. The story is principally aimed as a critic to the Pharisees who were in the audience listening to Jesus and their character is represented by the second son.
  1. The recklessly extravagant son represents the characters Jesus hang out with: prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners.
  1. Why did Jesus use a parable? The reason was political. It was a clever way to criticize somebody without mentioning their name and therefore create plausible deniability. It is a tactic used by politicians all the time. You can be right there in the audience but you cannot be able to nail the politician for talking about you. That is why politicians can make a defamatory statement and you do not see them in a court room having to defend a defamation claim. Jesus used parables as a form of teaching that would speak to many people in the audience at the same time with everyone knowing exactly where they fitted in the story. .

This message is entitled Disciples of Questionable Credentials because there was a consistent standoff between Jesus and the Pharisees about whose credentials were questionable.

According to the Pharisees Jesus thrived on controversy and had a habit of picking up characters in society that nobody else wanted and he did not seem bothered by the criticism it invited. He had become the leader of a dangerous sect and had gained popularity by performing miracles by means of who knows what! Some even said he was inspired by the devil. He hang out with disciples of questionable credentials who were fast tracked from illiterate fishermen to apostles overnight. He was in the good books of dirty politicians, prostitutes and tax collectors. He had a thing about the lost, the rejected, the lame and the sick and right in front of them he declared himself God. He had no regard for the Sabbath or temple laws and certainly no respect for the religious establishment led by the Pharisees.

According to the Pharisees it was better for Jesus to die than to have the whole synagogue close down because of the following Jesus was getting that was creating upheaval and a religious revival that the Pharisees could no longer contain. The sooner life went back to normal the better.

According to Jesus, the Pharisees were the committee that clouded the good news. In Matthew 23:13 Jesus said this to the Pharisees “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Why did Jesus use such strong language?

Remember our story of the old man selling land in Karen? After one month the old man decides to check on the progress of the committee and discovers that only a few people have responded to the offer to purchase the land. Puzzled he seeks to find out why. He is duly informed that the committee made a few changes to his statement of offer. When he read it, he was furious!

Let me give you a peek into how the new statement read:

The committee had effected three changes which in their view were minor but necessary to the offer being made for the purchase of the land:

Change number 1: Before you qualify to purchase the land you must look the way we people from Karen look like. You must clean up first and look like us before you can qualify to purchase the land.  Verse 29 and 30 – But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ The first son was angry because his brother was not clean like him therefore his brother did not qualify to come home.

Most of us if not all of us have a black sheep in  the family; a brother or a sister or a cousin who has spent his or her whole life messing up. If you have struggled to live right, you studied hard in school, you got a good job, married well and stayed away from drugs and alcohol how would you feel if you got to heaven and found that brother or sister or cousin sitting there having entered heaven before you because they repented and got saved fifteen minutes before they died of a HIV related illness? This is how the older brother was feeling.

Change number 2: You must be careful because people will judge you here. When you become a land owner we will scrutinise you, we will ask you about your background, your life will be open, you will be compared to other people and you will be judged. Verse 28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in.” Why did he refuse to go in? He was judging his brother. He did not feel he can be in the same place as his brother.

George Banner who is a Christian research scientist did a research in 1994 and he was aiming to find out through the research what the main differences between people in church and those outside church in about 6 major categories are. He discovered that people in the church were only different from people outside the church in two areas (they were the same in every other category): 1. Christians were different because they go to church every Sunday; and 2. Christians were more judgemental than other people.

Change number 3: Once you acquire the land you must slave. You will slave for long, you will never be celebrated and you cannot have fun. You are not allowed to laugh here.

I met a friend of mine who was disappointed that I had become a pastor. His reasons were that Christians always have problems, they are always quarrelling with God and they are so serious! They never laugh. It is as if it is a sin to laugh.

If the Gospel is good news… [why has it become so hard to promote it?]

It is because basic changes have been made to the Gospel that have darkened it and kept people from perceiving it as good news.

It was corrupt and wrong for the committee to change the offer made by the old man. The committee’s mandate was simply to facilitate the spread of the offer made by the old man. The thing that makes evangelism challenging is because we think the Gospel is about us so we take it and change it to what we think it should be as opposed to what it is. Whether or not we think that the offer is too extravagant it is not our prerogative to change the offer. We need to realise that the offer is made by the old man to any individual in the 47 counties who is willing to accept it. The old man in this story is God himself and the furore he felt upon being misrepresented was so huge that he felt he needed to take the good news to the people himself to correct the gross misrepresentation.

A middle aged man was travelling on a train and was sited next to a young man. He had the greatest discomfort in his spirit throughout the two hour train ride because he kept feeling that he needed to ask the young man one question. That question was – young man, have you ever considered Jesus as the savior of your life? He spent the whole two hours and five minutes train ride wrestling with this question. Finally out of sheer frustration and a desire to stop the nagging feeling in his heart, he gave in and as the train was screeching to a halt at his destination he asked the young man the question. The young man gave him a puzzled look and said that he has never really considered Jesus as his savior and what should he do? The middle aged man made a very brief, awkward prayer filled with fear and trepidation and he disembarked from the train.  It turned out that the young man who had responded to his question was Billy Graham who would become an evangelist, the leader of the Lausanne Movement, the one individual who has served the most number of American first families as a chaplain upto George W Bush and whose name has appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records as the one person alive who has preached to the most number of Christian audiences in the world!

How do you know who you may be keeping out of the Kingdom of God because you are afraid?

It is not about your fear or your qualification. It is about a good message to a dying world. The Gospel in its pure form no matter how simple or how basic is good news.

These are some of the common reasons we give for not sharing the good news, they are reasons I used to give: “I am not qualified. I am scared. I don’t know what to say.” Allow me to ask, IF NOT YOU, then who? And IF NOT NOW, then when?

The calling to evangelise is a privilege. It is not a right.  The Gospel does not need to be beautified. It has intrinsic life in it. You need to just say it and walk away. It is so good that it can market itself.

But why is the Gospel good news?

It is where the rejected and beaten up and hungry are accepted. You do not have to clean up. Verse 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” My attraction to Mavuno was because I found an attitude that said to everyone “come as you are”. God’s grace is extravagant.

It is where the sinful and reckless are forgiven and not judged. It is true that the second son had messed up. It is equally true that he was totally forgiven. Nothing kills judgementalism faster than forgiveness. Wherever you are if you are rehearsing in your heart how you can ever come back home, if you are thinking that you have gone too far or you have wasted your life on reckless living, your father will accept you without conditions. You just have to come back. The father is not interested in your story, he is getting ready to throw a robe on you and put a ring on your finger and sandals on your feet. He is not what you are thinking he is. God’s forgiveness forgets.

The Gospel is good news because it is where the lonely are celebrated. God is not interested in enslaving you. God is not looking to see how hard you can work for him. Verse 32But we had to celebrate and be glad…” God will look for any excuse to throw a party. The Bible says that there is great celebration in heaven when one sinner repents. Jesus celebrated Matthew’s conversion by attending a party in his house. Our God loves celebration. The reason the older son could not celebrate with his friends was not because the father stopped him.

If you are sad, depressed and slaving away for God it is not because your father in heaven stops you from celebrating. It is not God’s desire that you constantly quarrel with him or you never laugh. God loves you and he deeply desires to hear you laugh. The father said to his older son you are always with me and all I have is yours.

I got saved when I was in Form 6 and for a long time my friends who led me to Christ thought that I got saved because of their preaching. They were wrong. It was their joy that I wanted more than anything else. Every time they became “preachy” I became defensive because I could tell that they had an agenda to convert me. The thing I envied the most was the friendship, the love and the commitment that they had to each other and the way they were very unpretentious about it. That is what caught my attention and what I wanted. They would tell each other the truth, they would cry together and would call each other over weekends just to check how they were doing and in my 19 years I had never witnessed anything like that. I felt that if joining a youth group would give me that then I could bear the “shame” of being called saved. If I could only get the fun and joy they were having and the commitment to each other it would be worth it.

Jesus said everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another. I have no disrespect for preachers because I am one myself but there is something more powerful than preaching and it is love for one another. Love for one another does not ask others to be prim and proper, it does not gossip and it does not enslave. Love is accepting, forgiving and celebrating. That is attractive. And that is Good News!

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4 Responses to “#iGospel – Disciples with Questionable Credentials”

  1. Pst Ondachi, this is just to encourage you that indeed the Holy Spirit bears witness that this was not your teaching but the teaching of God.

    This week prophetic words have come from different parts of the world all saying the same thing – our sin of judging each other affects us all; get ready to love people who are different than you and; get ready for God to move in your life and divinely realign us all to become more effective!

    I was so excited to read these different prophetic words this week after hearing it first at my home church on Sunday!

    This is a move of God and I’m glad He’s at Mavuno!

    God refresh and re-envision you afresh concerning His heart and move across nations.

    Like

  2. blessings mwenda Says:

    Great ispiring message.I need more of this for spiritual growth.Man of God ,i bless God for your life.Continue Spreading the Good news,in the name of Jesus christ.

    Like

  3. Last week sermon yawa……..how can get it

    Like

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