Sunday, September 1, 2013

In Word AND in Power

“For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power….” 
1 Thess. 1:5
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”.  
2 Cor. 5:17
“Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus”.  
Phil. 2:5

Sunday, the 25th of August, was opening day for a week-long Jubilee celebration for the Anglican Diocese of Victoria Nyanza to commemorate its 50th anniversary.  Many guests came from all over Tanzania, and even other countries, to join together in a special service at St. Nicholas Cathedral in downtown Mwanza. The Archbishop of Tanzania gave a strong message based on Acts 1:8, which was also the theme of the Jubilee celebration.  He spoke on the history of the diocese:  of how God has done many good things in this region, but also of the many challenges that have been experienced in recent years.  Poor leadership, fighting, self-centeredness, and disunity have weakened the local churches and marred their ability to be effective ministers of the Gospel.  There is an expressed desire to have the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the churches, but how can this power be given when people are fighting for personal gain?

Archbishop Jacob spoke of the need to “fight” for peace instead -- beginning first in our homes.  From there peace can spread to our neighbors, through the villages, into the churches, and continue to grow into a force that will bring peace to our nation.  Peace starts in the home.  He picked up a small child from the front row and held him while continuing his sermon.  Children are the future of the church.  We need to stop fighting and think about our future.  When we are fighting, we are not thinking about the children, but only damaging them.  So, let’s stop fighting with each other and remember the children!

The Archbishop chose about 20 people to come forward and arranged them into two groups facing each other.  One group was of clergy and the other was of lay people.  “Which one of these groups is more important?” he asked.  “Can you have a church of only one group or the other?  Each is equally important in the proper functioning of the church”.  Lay people should not think that the church belongs to them; and that since pastors may come and go, they do not need to listen to their leaders.  Also, the clergy should not think they are better than other people, all the while seeking to take advantage of their position.  Each group, both of clergy and of lay people, has a job to do in the church and in being witnesses for Christ.  “So, why should we work against one another in disunity?”

He began mixing the two groups of people together to visually demonstrate the need for unity in the church.  “Each person in the church is important, from the youngest child to the very elderly.  When each person is valued and all are working together in peace and unity, then the Holy Spirit can come upon our churches with Power as He did in the early Church.”  The Archbishop then finished out his sermon by also speaking of the need for humility, a spirit of prayer, seeking the face of God, and asking for pardon from our fellow Christians when we make mistakes.  It was a sermon that spoke straight to the heart of the problems, yet was delivered in a spirit of gentleness and love.

As I was listening, I was reminded of a book I’ve been reading by A.W. Tozer titled The Divine Conquest.  In one section he reminds us that the message of the Gospel can be received in two ways:  in word only, without power; or in word with power.  If we receive the Word without power, then we are merely participating in a pleasant religious game in which no one is any different than he was before.  The bases of life remain unchanged, the same old principles govern, the same old Adam rules.  Religion without power does make changes in a man’s life, but there is no fundamental difference in the inner person. 

Here are some quotes from Tozer's book: 

“Behind the activities of the non-religious man and the man who has received the Gospel without power lie the very same motives.  An unblessed ego lies at the bottom of both lives, the difference being that the religious man has learned better to disguise his vice.  His sins are refined and less offensive than before he took up religion, but the man himself is not a better man in the sight of God.  He may indeed be a worse one, for always God hates artificiality and pretense.  Selfishness still throbs like an engine at the center of the man’s life.  True he many learn to ‘redirect’ his selfish impulses, but his woe is that self still lives unrebuked and even unsuspected within his deep heart.  He is a victim of religion without power.”

“The man who has received the Word without power has trimmed his hedge, but it is a thorn hedge still and can never bring forth the fruits of the new life.  Men do not gather grapes of thorns nor figs of thistles.  Yet such a man may be a leader in the Church and his influence and his vote may go far to determine what religion shall be in his generation.”

“The truth received in power shifts the bases of life from Adam to Christ and a new set of motives goes to work within the soul.  A new and different Spirit enters the personality and makes the believing man new in every department of his being.  His interests shift from things external to things internal.”

“The gospel is too often preached and accepted without power, and the radical shift which the truth demands is never made.  There may be, it is true, a change of some kind; an intellectual and emotional bargain may be struck with the truth, but whatever happens is not enough, not deep enough, not radical enough.  The ‘creature’ is changed, but he is not ‘new’.  And right there is the tragedy of it.  The gospel is concerned with the new life, with a birth upward onto a new level of being, and until it has effected such a re-birth it has not done a saving work within the soul.”

“The Christian message rightly understood means this:  the God who by the word of the gospel proclaims men free, by the power of the gospel actually makes them free.  To accept less than this is to know the gospel in word only, without its power.  They to whom the Word comes in power know this deliverance, this inward migration of the soul from slavery to freedom, this release from moral bondage.  They know in experience a radical shift in position, a real crossing over, and they stand consciously on another soil under another sky and breathe another air.  Their life motives are changed and their inward drives made new.”

Therefore, let us seek to receive the Gospel once again, not in word only, but in power also:  to make us truly a new each day, fully submitted to God; and to give us the mind of Christ.

May the peace of Christ be with you,

Brother Nathan

Beginning the Jubilee Celebration at the Cathedral.

Worshiping the Lord with choirs from different cities.

Archbishop Jacob illustrating his sermon  with people.

Praising Jesus together with the "Mama's Choir"....

who accompanied their singing with traditional drum music.



Just for fun...
Did Jesus say something about building your house beside the Rock?


"Don't talk! Just keep paddling!


For those days when nothing seems to be going right....


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