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"For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21
Back to the Bible
2019 marks the 500th anniversary of systematic Biblical Exposition. It was 1 January 1519 when Swiss Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, launched the Reformation in Switzerland by beginning Expository Preaching. Starting with Matthew 1:1, he worked, week by week, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, line by line, through every Book and every Word of the New Testament. This bold action of replacing the Latin mass with the preaching of the Word of God, in the local language, marked the beginning of Expository Preaching.
The Reformer of Switzerland
Ulrich Zwingli was the father of the Reformation in Switzerland. Born and raised in the Alps, Zwingli was one of the most colourful and audacious characters in Swiss history. A devout student of Scripture, Zwingli was transformed and shaped by the Word of God. He has been described as "an amazing combination of intellect, passion and wit."
Man of the Mountains
Born at an altitude of 3,600 feet (1,100 metres), the son of the Mayor of Wildhaus, Zwingli studied in Bern, Basel and Vienna. In 1506, he received his MA degree. As a pastor in Glarus, Zwingli served as a chaplain with Swiss soldiers in the Battle of Marignon.
Won by the Word
When Erasmus's New Testament in Greek appeared in 1516, Zwingli immediately purchased a copy. Zwingli taught himself Hebrew and Greek, wrote out and memorized Paul's Epistles in the Greek New Testament. He carried around his little pocket edition with him, memorizing much of the New Testament. Zwingli was shocked to find that there was a world of difference between the teachings of the Bible and the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic church.
Launching a Reformation
When Zwingli was appointed pastor at Grossmünster, (the Great Cathedral) in Zürich, he began his duties, on 1 January 1519, by systematically preaching through the New Testament.
Shortly after he became pastor in Zürich, the city was hit by the plague. Zwingli showed his courage by giving no thought to his own safety, but stayed in Zürich and ministered selflessly to the highly contagious victims. He himself was struck down with the plague and nearly died.
The Foundation of Wisdom and Understanding
"… the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding." Psalm 111:10
The Fear of God is mentioned more times than any other aspect of devotion. The reverential awe, respect and fear of God must be the fundamental attitude of our Faith. Any view of God, which does not lead us to fear God and obey His Law cannot be a Biblical view. "Great and marvellous are Your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are Your ways, King of the ages. 'Who will not fear You, 0 Lord and bring glory to Your Name? You alone are Holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed." Revelation 15:2-4
When something is repeated in Scripture, it emphasises its importance. Loving God, His Name, His Law and His Word is mentioned 88 times in the Bible. Trusting God and His Word occurs 91 times. There are 278 references to fearing God in the Bible. "And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul." Deuteronomy 10:12
Fear God Alone
The official history book of the Reconnaissance Commando is entitled: “We Fear Naught But God.” The theme of the sermon by Jonathan Edwards, which launched the Great Evangelical Awakening was “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God.” Mary Slessor was converted to Christ by an old woman who warned her of the terrors of the Day of Judgement and the flames of hell. Mary dedicated her life to saving lost souls, first in Aberdeen in Scotland, then in Calabar, Nigeria. How could Professor Martin Luther have the courage to defy the pope and emperor? Martin Luther feared God, so he was freed from the fear of man. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28
The first step to reforming the church is personal Reformation.
"Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?"
The roots of the Reformation are found in Martin Luther’s quest for peace with God, hunger and thirst for righteousness. Seeking first the Kingdom of God, his integrity as a professor of the University, duty as a doctor of the Scriptures to study, teach and defend the Holy Scriptures, working through Psalms, Galatians and Romans. This gave him the conviction and courage to challenge the entire religious, political and social order.
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him…”
2 Chronicles 16:9
The Incomplete Old Testament
The Old Testament Scriptures are the Word of God. However, they were definitely incomplete. The Old Covenant speaks of a King from the line of David, whose Kingdom would never end. It spoke of all the families of the nations of the earth being blessed by the Seed of Abraham. It spoke of a Prophet like Moses, arising from among the people, whose teaching would be unparalleled. It spoke of a Servant of the Lord, whose death would atone for the sins of His people. Of One who would make a New Covenant between God and men. One who would put the Spirit of the Lord into the hearts of men, so that they could know God personally and have their sins wiped out. It spoke of a Stone, despised by the builders, which would become the chief Cornerstone. It spoke of One like the Son of Man who would receive authority, honor and royal power so that the people of all nations, races and languages would serve Him. It spoke of a Priest of the order of Melchizedek whom the Almighty would call Lord and welcome to His Throne. It spoke of a coming Messiah who would be born of the tribe of Judah, from David’s line, in Bethlehem. He would be despised and rejected by the very people He came to deliver. He would die among wicked men and His tomb would be supplied by a rich man. Yet He would live again, forever, and the Lord’s purpose would succeed through Him. All of this was fulfilled by Jesus! Not some of it. Not much of it. All of it! Prophecies made by many prophets over a thousand years and more were all fulfilled in One historical Person.
"Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?" Psalm 85:6
What is Revival?
Revivals are a sovereign move of God initiated by the Holy Spirit working through consecrated men and women. “Revivals are not churches filled with people, but people filled with God.”
In the book of Acts, it was said that these Christians who have turned the world upside down have come here also (Acts 17:6). In fact, Revivals turn things right side up: Restored relationships. Transformed communities. Drunkards made sober. Thieves returning stolen goods. Blasphemers sanctified. Marriages healed. Estranged children and parents reconciled. The selfish becoming sacrificial. Conversions. Miracles. Healings. Revived churches. Revitalised prayer meetings. Dynamic worship. Decisive action to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).
"When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?' Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed."
A Vision of Heaven
Here we obtain a glimpse into Heaven. Those who have been faithful to God unto death, those who have been killed for the testimony that they had maintained, are in the very presence of Almighty God, and they are praying. What are they praying?
"How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"
Praying for Justice
Throughout the world I have come across many people who are praying for peace. However, it is remarkable that the Scriptures reveal that the Martyrs in Heaven are praying for Justice. They are praying for God to judge the wicked and to avenge the blood of those martyred for their Faith.
An Example of Excellence
Dr. David Livingstone is an example of excellence. His life, legacy and literature continue to speak to us today. The challenge of David Livingstone is most relevant to our times.
If Dr. David Livingstone was here today, what would he say to us?
We do not need to guess. We have his writings and published statements available. We can know exactly what David Livingstone would say to us today. It is what he said to the people of his generation:
A Vision of Victory
Dr. David Livingstone was inspired by an optimistic view of the future. Like most of the missionaries of the 19th century, Livingstone held to the Eschatology of victory:
"Discoveries and inventions are culminative… filling the earth with the glory of the Lord. All nations will sing His glory and bow before Him… our work and its fruit are culminative. We work towards a new state of things. Future missionaries will be rewarded by conversions for every sermon. We are their pioneers and helpers… let them not forget the watchmen of the night, who worked when all was gloom and no evidence of success in the way of conversions cheers our path. They will doubtless have more light than we. But we serve our Master earnestly, and proclaim the same Gospel as they will do."
"For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the Faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power."
A Spiritual State of Emergency
The Apostle Paul wants us to know that we are in a great conflict. We are in a wold war of worldviews. We are involved in a spiritual emergency. Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden, the world has been in a state of emergency. Satan has been running rampant in this world and the Lord has, from the time of Abraham, been mobilising His people in a great counter attack.
The Curse of the Lukewarm Church
There is a great conflict that anyone who has the responsibility of being a shephard of souls has noticed. I do not think the people of Colossi would have liked to have been with those in Laodicea, who are renowned as the lukewarm church. The church that makes God sick. The one's who are neither hot, nor cold. They are lukewarm. Who wants lukewarm tea? Or lukewarm coffee? Or lukewarm soup? You want it either hot, or cold. Cold can be refreshing, hot can be refreshing, but lukewarm is just nauseating.
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord', shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name, cast out demons in Your Name, and done many wonders in Your Name?' and then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practise lawlessness.' Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock; and the rain descended, the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand; and the rain descended, the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell. And great was its fall."
Transient and Temporary
Most people expend most of their energy on things that do not last. Transient and temporary concerns consume the overwhelming amount of time, talents and treasure of most people.
What are you expending your energy on? People's fickle opinions? Petty party politics? Fashions and fads that fade away?
What are you investing your time, talents and treasure on? Are you concerned about the things that really matter? The things that will last for eternity?
“Evangelicals worldwide have a lot to be ashamed of … We need a second Reformation!” This challenge from Chris Wright received immediate applause in the plenary session.
Identifying Idols in Evangelical Churches
The plight of today’s church was compared to the pre-Reformation church of the 16 th Century. The main stumbling blocks that hinder others from coming to Christ are not found outside the church. It is neither persecution nor false religions, but the integrity of Christian leaders which is hurting the Christian cause the most: “The failure, disobedience and rebellion” of church leaders. “The idolatry of the church” was emphasised, “especially seductive, even for Evangelical Christians: the idol of power and pride; the idol of popularity and success; the idol of wealth and greed.”
Christ is Admirable but Not those that Claim to Serve Him
Kenyan participant, Calisto Odede, observed that while people admired Jesus and respect His teaching, many have no desire to identify with a church, or to follow church leaders, who bear little resemblance to Christ.
This Kenyan pastor observed that the onus is on Christians to act differently from the world. He warned of the dangers of becoming “professional conference attendees” rather than doers of the Word. Because, when there is all talk and no action, Christians become simply “noisy vuvuzellas” from the sidelines.
A Radical Return to Humility, Integrity and Simplicity
Dr. Wright emphasized: “Reformation is once again the desperate need. It needs to start among those who claim the name Evangelical.” He called for “humility, integrity and simplicity” and “a radical return to the Lord.”
Reformation & Revival