Friday, May 18, 2018

The Rise of Atheist Thinking Among Young African Intelligentsia



There has been a rise of atheist thinking among the intelligentsia in Africa in the recent years. This of course is nothing new in Zambia as there was a similar rise in the 70s and 80s among the university communities as young people bought into the Marxist beliefs of communism. One trait this group of people has is a scornful attitude towards Christianity and Christians. With the easy flow of information on various platforms, the new breed of atheists has gained a daring boldness in their talk and mockery of Christian beliefs. What has contributed to the rise of this thinking?

-         Frustration with legalistic Christianity
Traditional Christianity has often wrongly assumed holiness equals adherence to rules and regulations. This kind of Christianity (traditional, legalistic) is often a reaction to the trendy Christianity that is basically worldly and simply seeks to indulge in one’s fleshly desires in the name of liberty and staying current. Both are wrong, unbiblical and not Christian at all. But a lot of young people who have grown up in strict, legalistic and often hypocritical Christian homes have grown disillusioned and frustrated with a suffocating religion. They have been fed and taught a misrepresentation of Scripture, and they have seen that it does not work since the people who often preach mere rules and regulations are often living double standards (i.e. a strict father who is respected at church and yet he is a womanizer and harsh to his wife and children). These young people have grown weary of being forced to conform.

-        The rejection of authority
People do not like authority unless they are the authority. The biggest problem atheists have with Christianity is that it teaches the absolute authority of God over everything and that does not sit well with them. It is no wonder that in the recent years any institution that has an order of authority has come under severe attack. People have attacked headship, roles and commitment in marriage, submission to a local church and its leaders through membership, and now even governments are under attack, and there has been a rise in protests and the forceful removal of leaders around the world. Anything with authority is viewed as an enemy, and God has been public enemy number one! These guys cannot stand the fact that God is sovereign and will hold them accountable for their lives.

-        Senseless versions of Christianity
Yes, I am talking about the word of faith movement and their health and wealth gospel: their preoccupation with miracles and sign gifts; their belief in superstition to explain away suffering and people’s genuine struggles; their ridiculous mantras and illogical talks; their despicable and immoral acts including undressing and abusing women; their preying on the poor; their promoting laziness and blaming the devil for people’s sinfulness. The list is endless, but this kind of senseless Christianity which is predominant in Africa has caused many to look down on Christianity and assume we are a bunch of illogical fanatics that throw away our senses when we gather together. If this was the truth about Christianity, even I would be an atheist. Suffice to say there are versions of Christianity that have bordered on the ridiculous and have made those with an informed mind think that religion is nonsensical.

-        Absence of a clear and logical presentation of Christian beliefs 
The old saying is true: while truth is lacing up its shoes, error has traveled around the world. The young budding atheists have been putting up arguments to discredit Christianity; the only problem is they have not properly understood biblical Christianity, so they are often discrediting their own version of Christianity or a misrepresentation of Christianity. This is largely due to the fact that there seems to be a lack of clear and logical presentations of the Christian beliefs by those of us who actually know the truth. Dear Christian, heed Peter’s charge to give a defense of the hope that lies within you (1 Peter 3:15). If people are going to deny and reject Christianity, it should be because they have fully understood what Christianity actually is.

With all that said, it is important to realize that people reject the truth because they have chosen to. Unbelief is man’s biggest problem and no amount of eloquent argumentation can transform a soul. We need to remember that salvation is a divine work and the proclamation of gospel truth must be accompanied by great striving in prayer. It is said that before the death of actor W. C. Fields who was an atheist, a friend visited his hospital room and was surprised to find him thumbing through a Bible. Asked what he was doing with a Bible, Fields replied, “I’m looking for loopholes.”

We need to faithfully, accurately and clearly declare the gospel of Christ, and yes, we need to make a defense of our faith regularly to all who ask the reason for our faith. These young people are asking for a reason; oh for the sake of Christ’s name, dear Christian, let’s give a defense for our faith with gentleness. Preach, teach, write and engage in discussions to proclaim the Truth!


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

SIGNS OF DEADNESS IN A CHRISTIAN’S LIFE



A danger for Christians is that one can pretend to be what they are not. It is possible to go through the motions of the ceremonies or the rituals of Christianity and yet be far away from God. One can say with their lips what they do not mean with their lives. It is possible to teach great truths of Scripture and assume because you have taught them you have lived them. Furthermore, it is very possible for anyone of us to actively and faithfully serve and be involved in church programs and yet not know God. Just as it is possible to be free from scandals and still not be walking with the Lord. In light of these truths let me suggest three things that might be an indicator that you are not walking with the Lord.

Absence of confession and repentance for sin
One reality for a growing believer is the daily realization of his sinfulness as a result of daily beholding the holiness of God (Isaiah 6:1-9). A Christian who is walking with the Lord is never under any illusion of their greatness or goodness; they instead constantly cry with the apostle Paul “wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death?” However, also like Paul, they do not remain in despair because they find comfort: “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25). A mark of Christians who are walking with the Lord is daily confession and repentance of their sins against God and man. A person who never acknowledges sin nor repents of it is a person whose relationship is not right with the Lord. A red flag should go off when someone habitually justifies, explains away, excuses, belittles or blame shifts their sins. You cannot walk with the Lord and not be in the habit of confessing and repenting of sin.

A general apathy towards church life
While being active in church is not always a sign of spirituality, apathy toward and a lack of desire to be involved in the life of the church is definitely a sign of serious spiritual problems. It is a refusal to heed the exhortation of Scripture:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25.

It is important to note that other people’s shortcomings and failures do not justify your apathy. If the reason you are not involved in the life of the church is because you think other believers are hypocrites (and they may well be), then you are clearly not in the habit of self-examination leading to daily confession and repentance.

A critical spirit of other believers
People who do not regularly self-examine in the light of God’s holiness often ooze with a rather disturbing self-righteousness in which they are not only apathetic toward the things of God, but they are also critical of those who are faithful in service. They will tell you everything that is wrong about you, inform you of how everything you did was wrong, and then advise on what you should have done.

“Among the seven deadly sins of medieval lore was sloth (accidie)—a state of hard-bitten, joyless apathy of spirit. There is a lot of it around today in Christian circles; the symptoms are personal inertia combined with critical cynicism about the churches and supercilious resentment of other Christians’ initiative and enterprise. Behind this morbid and deadening condition often lies the wounded pride of one who thought he knew all about the ways of God in providence and then was made to learn by bitter and bewildering experience that he didn’t.[1] 

Guard your heart from a dead Christianity which simply goes through the motions. Guard your heart from a deadly pride that thinks there is nothing wrong with you and convinces you of being good. Cultivate the habit of seeking God and enjoying communion with him. Do not underestimate the importance of your local church and attending to the various means of grace. Develop genuine friendships that will provide meaningful accountability so that you are daily walking with the Lord.



[1] Packer, J.I., Knowing God. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1973, pg 94.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

AN EASTER MESSAGE THAT CHALLENGED MY SOUL



A few weeks ago we joined Christians around the world in reflecting on the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection is such a cardinal teaching that the entire Christian hope stands on it. It is no wonder that from the time of Christ to today people have sought to discredit the resurrection either in subtle ways or in more direct and brash ways. People’s view of the resurrection is seen in the way they respond to the message.  My dear brother Ben Straub preached a brilliant sermon showing four different responses to the resurrection of Christ by the eyewitness of that day.

The Guards
After the death of Jesus and his subsequent burial, the Sanhedrin (the council responsible for his death) requested for guards to be posted at the entrance to the tomb as they feared the disciples might come and steal his body since they remembered that Jesus had said he would rise from the dead.
After three days, Christ truly rises. The guards were the only people to actually witness the resurrection in its full glory. They ran away in fear and reported what happened to the Sanhedrin who in turn bribed them to keep quiet and say that the disciples came and stole the body. Having seen the resurrection with their own eyes, they chose to accept the bribe and deny it all together. They chose immediate gain over eternal life. If they could only hear Christ’s warning: “what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?”

Peter and John
Peter and John had been with Jesus for three years, and they even heard him constantly teach that he would die and rise from the dead. They were supposed to know. And yet when they found the empty tomb, they left confused, fearful, and indifferent. As a result, they went and locked themselves in. They should have known better, yet they missed the main thing all together.

Mary
Mary, on the other hand, worshipped the resurrected Christ and that worship led her to be a witness as she went and told the disciples that he had risen. Worship leads us to witness.

Thomas
The famous doubting Thomas! He like the other disciples also heard Christ predict his death and resurrection and yet when it happened, he doubted and demanded proof before faith. When Christ eventually shows him the proof he demanded, Christ rebukes him and says, “blessed are those who believe without seeing.”

All of these people except the guards claimed to follow Christ! The resurrection changes everything, and it demands a response from you! How will you respond?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Make the most of Easter


Easter is not about you! The biggest mistake you can make this Easter period is to make it about you, either by making the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ about you and your wellbeing in life or by simply thinking about the long weekend ahead and missing the opportunity to reflect on the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God in working out our salvation through Christ. So how can we make the most of the Passion Week? Let me suggest two ways.

Praise God for your salvation
How often do you reflect on your salvation? How often do you meditate on the gospel? We neglect these truths at our own peril. The moment we take our salvation for granted and deceive ourselves into thinking the gospel is only for the unsaved, we fall into the trap of thinking we are good people who deserve to be saved. What this Passion Week provides us is the opportunity to reflect on the great work that God has done which should lead us in total praise. We should stand amazed at the richness of God’s mercy and greatness of grace towards us. Marshall Segal reminds us what salvation is all about when he says, “Christ was betrayed for the glory of God, because in being betrayed God was able to adopt sinful us as precious sons and daughters ‘to the praise of his glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:5–6). Christ was crucified for the glory of God, because in being crucified he was able to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). Christ was raised for the glory of God, because in being raised God made us alive with him (Ephesians 2:5), and shows the world ‘the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us’ (Ephesians 2:7).”[1]  Make the most of Easter by giving thanks to God for your salvation.

Proclaim the death of Christ to the lost
This Easter holiday is not simply a long weekend to meet up with friends and party. We miss the point if we simply use it to sleep in and catch up on unfinished tasks. We miss an opportunity to proclaim Christ and Him crucified if all we do is go on family vacations and enjoy ourselves. While there is nothing wrong with any of the things I have listed, in fact they are good and to be encouraged, we would be amiss if we did not seize the opportunity to make Jesus known at the time when everyone is directly or indirectly thinking about His death, burial and resurrection. So while you go out for a party, enjoy a family vacation, or sort out your honey to do list, seek for ways to make Christ known to those who do not know him.

Easter is not about or me. It is not primarily about our happiness. Easter is about the glory and praise of the triune God in the great work of salvation. So let’s praise Him for our salvation and proclaim Him to the lost.



[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/for-god-so-loved-his-worth

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Four dangers facing the church in Zambia


The people of God have always faced opposition both internally and externally. Christ assured the disciples that challenges of all sorts will follow them because of their decision to follow Him. And throughout her history, the church of Christ has faced and fought battles of all kinds, and that is the status quo today. Though there is nothing new under the sun, dynamics change from time to time, and it is therefore a healthy practice to take stock of the dangers that are with us now and those that are on the horizon. I am not a prophet neither am I a son of one, but I see four (among many) challenges that the church in Zambia should be prepared to face.

A love for the world in the church
The first challenge is an internal one. Believers have always battled with the love of the world, however I sense a different kind of worldliness within the church that seems to be creeping in at an alarming rate. The worldliness I am talking about has come as a result of what may be termed “a revolt against the traditional positions of mainline Christianity.” Some of these positions are regulations that the church has espoused and talked about (strongly) that are not necessarily the teachings of Scripture but the convictions and preferences of men (issues like music, drinking, tattoos, worship styles, etc.). So as most believers (particularly the younger believers) have become enlightened about what Scripture actually teaches, they have reacted by choosing to be the opposite of mainline Christianity and the end result has been a daring worldliness. The church has to begin to have honest conversations about some of these issues and be willing to admit what the Bible actually teaches without conceding the fight against sin. The moment the church becomes worldly is the moment it loses its testimony and witness to the world.

Charismatic teachings and practices
When an average Zambian hears the term pastor, they often think of charismatic preachers: self-exaltation, fancy (often colorful) dressing, dream explainer, tongue speaking, motivational speaker, miracle worker, demon slayer and lover of money. Gone are the days when pastors are merely viewed as teachers and preachers of the Word of God. The charismatic movement is a cancer in our country, and its teachings and practices must be aggressively exposed and uprooted before they eat up the entire church! These practices include: deliverance services, altar calls, the viewing of pastors as mediators between God and man, hierarchy of offices not taught or practiced in the Bible, the making of pastor’s wives into assistant pastors, Christ-less gospel and sermons, worship services designed to entertain, unity that ignores and compromises the truth of Scripture etc. What makes the charismatic movement appealing in Africa is that it resonates with our African worldview. This is a challenge that should not be faced head on. If there was ever a need for faithful preachers of the Word of God, now is the time.

A rise in atheistic thinking
While there not many atheists in our country compared to other countries, the number is rising. Atheistic thinking is more common than we care to admit. The number of people that deny the existence of God either in word or deed is alarming. Popular motivational speaking for instance is largely based on evolutional thinking. Man is no longer a created being who is totally sinful, but someone who is inherently good who just happens to be in the wrong place with the wrong people. Another result of atheistic thinking has been the battle of the races and sexes. White supremacy and male supremacy has led to a reaction where you have blacks and females pushing for their own supremacy. Atheistic thinking is becoming very popular among young adult college students because it is viewed as progressive and intelligent. In light of this danger of church cannot afford not to be clear about matters of origin and the implications of the gospel in peoples lives.  

A denial of the sufficiency of Scripture
Most people believe the Bible is the Word of God, and it is good and helpful for your spiritual wellbeing. However, not many people believe the Scriptures are sufficient for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). As a result, the truths of Scripture are constantly under attack especially in the recent times when the Bible is generally viewed as out of date. It is therefore not uncommon to find people who are committed to church and do not apply or even think about what the Scripture says about an issue. This is often reflected in marriage, family, births, funerals, education, entertainment, work and business and our involvement in politics.  For most people the Bible is for Bible studies and preaching sermons and not for “actual” life. The church cannot afford to be wishy washy about this issue. Now is the time for preachers to raise their voices in proclaiming thus says the Lord!
These and many other challenges will batter the church from all angles. And the temptation to succumb will be great, and sadly many will fall along the way. However, now is the time for the church to take its stand and not waver from upholding the truths of Scripture; now is the time for courageous preachers who will preach the Word with boldness and clarity. Now is the time for Christian homes to unapologetically be biblical. Dear friends, against unnumbered foes, let courage rise with danger.