Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
I love being a teacher. That is what I have been called to do. That is why I love to read. That is why I love to study. That is why I love to write. I enjoy breaking down complex theological issues into their chewable and digestible parts. I love standing before hungry believers and feeding them hope-producing truth. I relish tackling seemingly unsolvable problems of life and finding their divine solutions within Scripture. But, most of all, I love being a teacher because of what I get to teach. The Word of God is the most precious and powerful force on the face of the earth.
It is precious because it reveals Christ and the incomparable riches of his glory. It is powerful because it opens eyes, changes hearts and breathes life. That is why I am in Malawi. Jesus sent his followers to the ends of the earth to make disciples of all nations. Their baptism into the body of Christ was just the beginning. They were told make disciples, followers of Christ. The primary means God chose to accomplish this was through teaching: educating with commands and promises; motivating with warnings and rewards; and demonstrating with illustrations and directions.
All men have two serious problems: ignorance and rebellion. We don’t know God’s Word or we know it and refuse to obey it. Whether I am in California or Malawi, both options are in play. But, I have been given this promise: Jesus will go with me to the ends of the earth. If the issue is ignorance, his inspired Scriptures will reveal truth to heads. And, if the issue is rebellion, his Holy Spirit will work repentance in hearts.
When I stand to teach in the villages of Malawi, I know that some, although claiming to be Christians, are still involved with witchcraft and tribal superstitions that prevent them from knowing the joy of obeying “everything Jesus commanded.” However, although these villagers may still be chained, I know that God’s Word is not. (2 Timothy 2:9) Let me give you two examples that will validate that boast.
Last year I spoke in the village of Mafunda where Abusa Kololo ministers. I taught on God’s plan for marriage. In the question and answer time, the subject of polygamy surfaced. The local Abraham Church practices polygamy and justifies it by pointing to the lives of the patriarchs. Someone asked me if it was biblical. I took them back to Genesis and we looked at God’s original plan. Then we jumped ahead to hear the words of Jesus and Paul. The issue became clear. The Bible never tells us to imitate everything these men did, but to obey everything Jesus commands. God deliberately used these men in spite of their sins. The Bible is a story of God’s grace not man’s greatness. Jesus is our only model and teacher, not men nor their traditions. We now have the blessing of looking back at them through the spectacles of the New Testament revelation.
Abusa Kololo took that teaching to heart. He sought out the pastor of the local Abraham Church. He presented the Bible’s teaching on monogamy. He then asked him why he had multiple wives. The man had four wives and twelve children. The pastor defended himself by pointing to the patriarchs. Kololo told him that he would come back in a week. He challenged him to find one reference in all of the Scriptures that commanded us to imitate their practice. When Kololo returned the man said, “You are right. I could find none. What I am doing is sin.” Kololo was able to lead him into confession and repentance and a life-changing belief in Jesus Christ.
But, sin often leads to seemingly unsolvable problems. What was this man to do with the four wives and 12 children? He had maintained four families in four separate locations, visiting each one week of the month. He asked Kololo for help. So, Kololo took his own wife and went to visit the other wives. He presented the Bible’s teaching on marriage. Two of the three wives received the teaching with humility, confessed faith in Jesus and are now members of Abusa Kololo’s church. The man is now taking care of four families but is living with and committed to only one.
Let me give you another illustration. Last year Barbara went to visit a 15 year-old orphan in one of the villages who was taking care of four siblings since their parent’s death the year before. She went back to see her last week. She and Sarah brought sema, t-shirts and candy for the family. When they got there they went into the hut to share with them the gifts. They went inside because if the neighbors saw what they were receiving, they would have demanded a share.
Barbara told the oldest how she had not forgotten her since she was last there. She had been praying for her regularly for the last year. Then, she reminded her that the Scriptures declare that Jesus loves her very much and was watching over her. Both, she and her next youngest sister had tears in their eyes at the good news they were hearing. You see, Barbara was not just sharing love. She was teaching and demonstrating truth. Barb would have to leave, but Jesus would not. That is his promise written in black and white. (Hebrews 13:4-6)
These are only two of the many difficult situations we deal with in our seminars. Gossip, bitterness, division and strife are a normal part of church-life. Wives are still treated as property. Marriages are shallow. Husbands are often unfaithful. Witchcraft and witch doctors have influence. In the village, girls who are “coming of age” are expected to go through vile sexual rituals. Teenagers are expected to experience sex before they enter into marriage. Orphans and widows fill the villages. Drunkenness is a problem.
What can one 70 year-old, gogo azungu, expect to accomplish in the face of such daunting problems? Nothing! But, that same grandpa, white foreigner, can and does expect God to perform miracles through the teaching of the Word and the Work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. He saved us. He called us. He sent us. And, Jesus promised to go with us, to the end of the age. Do we expect miracles through the teaching of God’s commands? You betcha!