Marks of a True Church

How do I know a true church? Or does it really matter which church I go to? These are important questions because a church is not just a club that one belongs to. Christ established the church for the purpose of salvation and sanctification of all who believe so that at the end of time he might present them to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle (Eph. 5:27).

So, how do I know a true church? Well, before tackling this question, it is important to clarify on the onset that we will never have a perfect church in this world. It is only in glory that we will have it as Ephesians 5:27 tells us; nevertheless, we can still find a true church. The true church is characterized by three main things or marks namely the faithful preaching of the Bible, proper administration of the sacraments, and proper exercise of church discipline as taught in the Scriptures.

First, a true church is where the Bible is preached faithfully (Acts 20:27). Now, almost all churches and even cults claim to preach the Bible. However, if you go to a church where the preacher  uses a text of the Bible as a springboard to teach his own thoughts or ideas that is not faithful preaching. Faithful preaching recognizes that the Bible is holy and inerrant word of God hence the preacher strives to present its truths as they have been revealed to us without adding or subtracting from them.

Faithful preaching also is not afraid of offending people with the truth. It doesn’t seek to please men at the expense of God’s word. It proclaims that all men are sinners in need of a savior, Jesus Christ, who after saving them by grace through faith also calls them to walk in holiness by his grace. Faithful preaching regards growing in grace, faith and knowledge of Christ and not material or physical prosperity as the main goal of our salvation in this world (2 Peter 3:18). So, a true church always believes that preaching is the major element of worship that should not be compromised or underrated at all.

Secondly, a true church is where there is faithful administration of sacraments. The Bible clearly teaches that there are two sacraments, which were established by Christ himself namely baptism and the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion (Matthew 28:19; Luke 22:19). A true church makes sure that these ceremonies are always observed according to the directions given to us in the Scriptures for they are one of the means that God uses to grant grace to his people. They are “channels of grace” as some have said.

A true church, therefore, does not allow people who are living in open sin and rebellion against God to receive these sacraments, yet at the same time it encourages all who have made profession of faith and are striving to walk in the manner worthy of their gospel calling to come and participate in these ordinances, particularly, the Holy Communion after humbly examining themselves (1 Cor. 11:28).

A couple of years ago, somebody shared with me a story of a pastor who announced to his congregation that the following Sunday they will have the Lord’s Supper and every one from the community was welcome. Well, this might sound as being gracious but it is complete rebellion against the standards laid out in the Scriptures regarding the Lord’s Table. It is a deliberate provocation of God’s judgment. It is also an act of “blasphemy” as Calvin rightly puts it, “For it is very true that he to whom its (Lord’s Supper) distribution has been committed, if he knowingly and willingly admits an unworthy person whom he could rightfully turn away, is as guilty of sacrilege as if he had cast the Lord’s body to the dogs.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion 4.12.5).

Thirdly, a true church is where church discipline is practiced according to the teaching of Scriptures (Matt. 1815-22). This, sadly, is a mark that is fast diminishing in a number churches. There are some churches that chicken out or deliberately ignore to discipline members who have going astray in sin and refuse to repent. If a church cares so much to keep their members irrespective of whether they are living their lives according to God’s will, then, you be afraid and do not be part of it.

But what do we mean by church discipline. Let me explain it with an illustration of a family. When children in a family misbehave, parents discipline them according to the offence committed. If the offence is minor, the chastisement or reprimand is also minimal. But if the offence is a major one, the punishment or rebuke is also severe. The same applies to the church. The church being a larger family, its members might commit various sins, which require a rebuke and correction from the church. Some sins are minor so a pastor and sometimes with some elders will correct the person in private. Others sins are major and public hence the Church should openly rebuke the sin in its strongest terms and even excommunicate the member if he is unrepentant after being spoken to.

In a case where the church has been forced to excommunicate a member, three goals are intended to be achieved. First, it is to reclaim the person back to the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. Through this act the church trusts that the Holy Spirit will work in the heart of the member to bring him back to the Lord in repentance (1 Cor. 5:5). Secondly, it helps to maintain the purity of the church. By expelling the unrepentant sinner, the church intends to guard against the corruption of the entire body since an undisciplined member might act as an encouragement to others to live in sin. Lastly, excommunication aims at protecting the testimony  of the church in the world. Those who refuse to repent and deliberately continue in sin should not claim to be part of the body of Christ since their lives and actions reject Christ’s teaching (1 Cor. 5:9-13).

Now, although a true church practices proper administration of discipline, it should also be borne in mind that no single church enjoys disciplining its members just as parents do not enjoy the actual act of disciplining their children. But this being an essential mark of a true church, churches should not chicken out from it for “All who desire to remove discipline or to hinder its restoration – whether they do this deliberately or out of ignorance – are surely contributing to the ultimate dissolution of the church” (John Calvin, Institutes 4.13.1) .

So, my friend, a true church is where you will find all these three marks. Not just one or two of them, but all of them. If you find or are in a church that ignores any of these marks, you should be afraid! In fact, I would encourage you to leave it if you are already a member. If you are not yet a member then do not go near again for it is not a true church.

A true church is not just a building but people called by Christ to live in holiness by his grace.


Posted by on October 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


Rejoice, Christ Has Overcome the World (Audio)

On Sunday, October 18, 2015, I had a priviledge of bringing God’s Word to God’s people at Charlotte Christian Reformed Church in Charlotte, Michigan. I preached from John 16:33. The sermon title was: “Rejoice, Christ Has Overcome the World. It can be listened to here   It also happens to be my first sermon to be featured on sermon audio website. The Lord is good indeed. To Him alone be the glory!


Posted by on October 19, 2015 in My Sermons


Beware of False Prophets

I believe John Calvin has a better commentary on these words of Christ than I could ever pen down.  Therefore, I will let him speak.

“But beware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15).  These words were intended to teach, that the Church would be exposed to various (impostors), and that consequently many would be in danger of falling from the faith, if they were not carefully on their guard. We know what a strong inclination men have towards falsehood, so that they not only have a natural desire to be deceived, but each individual appears to be ingenious in deceiving himself.

Satan, who is a wonderful contriver of delusions, is constantly laying snares to entrap ignorant and heedless persons. (Jesus) therefore warns his disciples that, if they desire to persevere (in the faith), they must prepare themselves to avoid the snares of Satan. It is the will of the Lord, (as has been already said,) that his Church shall be engaged in uninterrupted war in this world. That we may continue to be his disciples to the end, it is not enough that we are merely submissive, and allow ourselves to be governed by his Word. Our faith, which is constantly attacked by Satan, must be prepared to resist.

It is of the greatest consequence, undoubtedly, that we should let ourselves to be directed by good and faithful ministers of Christ: but as false teachers, on the other hand, make their appearance, if we do not carefully watch, and if we are not fortified by perseverance, we shall be easily carried off from the flock. To this purpose also is that saying of Christ: “The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd; and a stranger. They do not follow, but flee from him,” (John 10:3, 5)

Hence too we conclude, that there is no reason why believers should be discouraged or alarmed, when wolves creep into the fold of Christ, when false prophets endeavor to corrupt the purity of the faith by false doctrines. They ought rather to be aroused to keep watch: for it is not without reason that Christ enjoins them to be on their guard. Provided that we are not led astray through our own sluggishness, we shall be able to avoid every kind of snares; and, indeed, without this confidence, we would not have the courage necessary for being on our guard.

Now that we know that the Lord will not fail to perform his promises, whatever may be the attacks of Satan, let us go boldly to the Lord, asking from him the Spirit of wisdom, by whose influences he not only seals on our hearts the belief of his truth, but exposes the tricks and impositions of Satan, that we may not be deceived by them. When Christ says, that they come to us in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves, his meaning is, that they (will seem to be true), if prudence be not exercised in subjecting them to a thorough examination” ~ John Calvin (July 10, 1509 to May 27, 1564)


Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Sound Teaching


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Family Worship

A couple of years ago I lamented the passiveness of some Christian fathers and husbands who are not taking up their spiritual leadership roles as given to them by God in his holy and inerrant Word here. I also went on to appeal to my fellow Christian husbands and fathers to stand up and guard their families from various errors and false teachings that are bombarding us everyday. Today, I would like to continue and point out one of the ways of doing this namely family worship.

We are all familiar with the worship that takes place in our churches when we meet on the Lord’s Day. But there ought to be another worship that takes place in our homes when we are not gathering with fellow saints. Parents, especially, fathers should gather their children, and teach them the word of God, pray, and sing hymns and psalms with them. These are some of the means that God uses to bless his people and to build strong and godly families and churches that are able to discern false doctrines.Thomas Manton was right when he observed, “A (Christian) family is the seminary or theological school of Church and State.”

More importantly, we need to do family worship because it is our act of obedience to God’s Word. God’s command for it dates back to the Old Testament times. “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deut. 11:18, 19). Similar directions are also given in Psalm 78:1-4 and Ephesians 6:4.

I hope, by the grace of God, you are convinced of the need to observe this important practice, if you were not doing it. But you might wonder on where to start. Be encouraged, it is not as complicated as you think. To begin with, set aside time for family worship in the evening when every member of your home is available. If you can do it both in the morning and evening, why not! That’s far much better since you can’t overdose prayer.

Before the worship, take some time to prepare what you are going to share from God’s word. To make it easier for yourself, plan to go through one book of the Bible after another. You can use John Calvin or Matthew Henry’s commentaries in your preparation, which you can access for free here and here. After your preparation, pray for God’s blessings upon your family worship. Then gather your family together. Pray together that God would speak to you through his word, and then read the Scriptures. Explain the passage and give a chance to your children to ask questions regarding the passage. After that sing at least one or two psalms or hymns then pray that God will apply the truth of the words you have shared to your hearts. Remember also to pray for the needs of your family, and to thank God for his blessings. Keep on doing this at an established time until it becomes an inseparable part of your family.

May God bless you as you continue or venture into this wonderful experience.


Posted by on September 9, 2015 in Christianity and Society


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The Gospel Will Always Work: It Doesn’t Depend on Us

“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as servants for Jesus’ sake…we have this treasure (the gospel) in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us,” (2 Cor. 4:5-7).

The Gospel will always work. This is obvious, is it not? I am afraid, it is not! In the last two decades, I have noticed, especially, here in Malawi the growing temptation to make the gospel more relevant. We look at the gospel and think that on its own it lacks significance. Thus we seek means of making it more attractive and appealing.

Let me illustrate my point. Slightly over a decade ago, Malawi witnessed the rise of “apostles.”
I even remember one preacher who had to change his title from pastor to “apostle.” His explanation was that God had promoted him. This was all done in order to make “the gospel” more relevant since then people were attracted to the preaching of “the apostles.” Many were made to believe that these apostles had special powers and authority more than a “mere” pastor.

But now things have changed. Apostles are no longer crowd-pullers and they are slowly fading away from the scene. Now enter, prophets! Almost every preacher now claims to be a prophet who receives direct revelations from God. The crowd-pulling mantle has shifted from apostles to prophets. But trust me, just as apostles are now no longer popular, these prophets will also sooner or later fade into oblivion. What will be next? I don’t know. We have to wait and see.

The point is: the gospel is perfectly relevant. It does not depend on anybody for it to work. Preach and proclaim it the way it has been given to us in the Scriptures and it will work because it is the power of God (Rom. 1:16). Charles Haddon Spurgeon once noted, “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.” I would paraphrase Spurgeon and say, “Do not bother to make the gospel relevant because is already more than relevant. Let it loose by proclaiming it faithfully in the power and grace of Christ and it will always work.” It will work not because of us, but because its surpassing power is from God.

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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


A Tale of an Agony of Prosperity “Gospel”

A few days ago I received a letter from an old friend. We first met in secondary school and one thing that brought us together was our religion then, Rastafarianism. However, the Lord was gracious to both. The Lord saved my friend a year before he saved me. After our secondary days, we parted ways and never knew what was going in each other’s life until recently when my friend through his brother traced me and send me this letter. When I finished reading it, I was angry but also sorrowful at the reality of the agony that prosperity “gospel” is bringing to many in my motherland, Malawi.

Dear friend,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It has been a long time…Time really flies. But memories are still fresh of us eating chiwaya pa Bright pa break. Kale lokoma ndi losayiwalika (during break time we used to go and have pieces of fried potatoes commonly called chips at a place owned by a man simply known as Bright).

Anyway, the main reason for writing this letter is to share with you what has happened in my life. Probably, you heard that I was arrested and charged with three accounts: abuse of office, corruption and theft by public servant. As I am writing now I am in one of the prisons in our country waiting for trial. For you own information, I will plead guilty to all these charges because I am indeed guilty, and I don’t intend to contest against them when my trial begins.

It all started that time when the Lord saved me. I began to go to this other church where our pastor always preached about prosperity gospel. Again and again, he emphasized that God’s will for us is that we should enjoy His blessings to the full. We should have better jobs or own big businesses, big and beautiful houses, and very expensive cars among other blessings from the Lord. The verses he often cited were 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” and 3 John 2 “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”

We believed and incessantly absorbed this “truth.” He challenged us to pray and claim these blessings for ourselves in Jesus name. Indeed it seemed to work. Many of my friends began to do well. They secured better- paying jobs. Some started business which within a few years were growing and thriving wonderfully. But it was not so with me. I prayed and fasted but things didn’t seem to work. I approached my pastor a number of times and asked him why I was not prospering like my friends. He replied and said that that my faith was weak. He challenged me to fast more and pray more. He also observed that I was probably not faithful in my giving to the church.

“You cannot have God’s blessings if you do not sow faithfully and abundantly,” he challenged me.

Friend, from that time onwards, I prayed harder and fasted even more. I remember one time, I took a one-week leave from my organization to go to a mountain to fast and pray for three days also called Esther’s fasting. That month and the following months, I took almost half of my salary and gave it as “tithe” to the man of God. I sowed the seed faithfully and waited for the harvest but to my surprise no single blessing came.
Every Sunday when I went to church I felt like a failure as I listened to my friends giving testimonies of how God was blessing them. I felt that I was not a true Christian since most of my friends were driving nice cars, but I was still walking to church.

“You are of little faith, my brother. Put your faith into action. Trust the Lord more and give more and he will bless you,” my pastor challenged me again after I poured out my frustrations to him.

The pressure to appear that I was also receiving blessings from the Lord was huge on me. In no time, I started getting involved in various malpractices at my work place. As my job involved handling finances I started swindling my organization. It all began with small amounts and after noticing that I was able to get away with it, I stepped on the accelerator even harder. Soon, I was driving a nice car and started building a mansion in one of the city suburbs.

My pastor was very happy with me. I remember meeting him one Sunday after service when I had just given a lot of money to the church as my tithe and he said, “You see now…your faith has grown and you have sown the seed faithfully. The blessings are now pouring. The Lord has showed me that this tap of blessings will continue to flow and never dry because you are faithful.”
I was very happy, even though deep down my heart I wondered, “Can’t this man of God tell what is happening behind the scenes for me to have these blessings?”

My church friends who were shunning me before because I was not doing better financially finally began to befriend me again. We called ourselves “Sons of the Wonderful and Answering God (SWAG).” There was literally competition among us as we aimed at outdoing in “God’s blessings.” I continued to defraud my organization so that I could be on top of SWAG. Almost every Sunday, the man of God gave me the pulpit to share the testimony of God’s blessings in my life.

So, all was well until last year when the cat went out of the bag and all the skeletons in my closet were exposed. I was arrested and charged as I have already mentioned. Anyway, to cut the long story short, I have been in this prison for over eight months now because I was denied bail. My pastor is no where to be seen. He has never visited me. All my property was seized by the authorities and my bank accounts were frozen. Every day, I cry for my wife and my two beautiful little daughters. I have put them in a great predicament all because of my sin and the so called prosperity gospel.

Now, you may wonder why after this long time my first letter should be of this sort. Well, I have heard that you are studying for ministry. Please my brother, if God wills that you become a preacher of the gospel make sure that you preach the gospel of Christ alone. You should know that preachers have great influence on their members; therefore, please, please, use this God-given influence to lead your members to Christ and not to false hood and selfish ambitions.

Lastly, please remember me and my family in your prayers. I have repented of my sin and I believe Christ has forgiven me, but I am ready to face the consequences of my sin which might be spending a number of years in this prison.

Greetings to your family.

Your old-friend in Christ,


NB: Though this may be a true reflection of the agonies of prosperity gospel in Malawi, this story is fiction.

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Posted by on April 10, 2015 in Sound Teaching


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Put Yourself in the Path of God’s Grace


My friend and brother in Christ, Fletcher Matandika, has written this e-book on Psalm 119. I would like to recommend it to you.

Originally posted on Grace for Each Moment:

Get this short book and walk with me through Psalm 119.  Click on the image and it will take you to where you can get it.


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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in Uncategorized


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