THE BATTLEFIELDS OF OUR MINDS

THE BATTLEFIELDS OF OUR MINDS

Before I began to write this article early this morning, I saw a commercial ad for a washing machine company on my Spotify music app. The ad showed a young mom doing the laundry while her two children who looked between 5-8 years old ran all over the house dropping their laundry everywhere and giving it over to their mom. The advert then said:  “They will never change, so the best you can do is get more out of your washing”. I could not believe my ears. That these children would never be taught how to do their own laundry and for the rest of their lives make their mom do laundry for them?! Was this a bizarre joke? What sort of message was being passed to parents and to do children?!

But wait. Are these not the sort of subtle messaging that we get every day from the media, from friends that begin to shape our thoughts, viewpoints, mindsets and ideas. We never realize how the world is creeping in and manipulating our minds. The genius of it is absolutely astounding if only it was not heartbreaking and alarming. The battle for our mind is very real and has been going on since before we can even remember. And this battle has intensified in recent years more than ever with the explosion of technology and mass media. It is so powerful and stealthy, it is an open secret but insidious, it is subversive and stealthy. It is so subtle that even so-called mature Christians have been taken prey and suckered in the name of changing with the times.

The most dangerous aspect of it is that the force of this world’s ideology is working tirelessly to shape our young people through its philosophy, movements, music, movies, art, fashion among others. And Christians and the church are none the wiser. If only we understood the power of ideas. We perish for lack of knowledge, we who have the source of light and knowledge. To change the world to become what they want it to look like, the world understands that all it requires it to take an idea and make it pervasive. And soon enough, the idea becomes the default way of thinking. Without delving too deeply into history, let’s cast a look back at the troubling effects of fake news in recent years on elections and current affairs and it would instructive in showing how powerful ideas can take over an entire civilization and shape its culture. The society is shaped by what it knows and what it doesn’t in the case of many of Christians. The reason the kingdom of the devil is called the kingdom of darkness is that operates on ignorance and the kingdom of God is light is that we come to knowledge and truth. And I want you, dear reader, to know the truth.

I give some well-known examples- ideas on evolution spawned the massive ungodly movements on abortion as the sanctity and sacredness of life was desecrated, evolution resulted in the commodification of sex and marriage as the divine nature of man was relegated to the dustbins. It also results in the emergence of atheistic beliefs as the mainstream views of many in western societies such that it has even shaken the faith of many young people from Christian homes today. It has eroded the belief of many in God, the authenticity of the bible, led to revolting ideas on sexual ideology and ended in the pluralistic thought and secular humanism of today. The evil web of evolutionary thought still continues to wreak havoc on our world today yet the world still marches forward in trying to mold everyone in this pattern including our young people. They spend a large proportion of their time every week being taught this ungodly idea. To be clear, young people are not the only victims of this trend, and I am saddened to say that many adults in the church have fallen prey to many other ideas that the world is relentlessly foisting on us.

Let me give an example. Ungodly social scientists and educators have successfully convinced the world that getting the state to educate our children is in the best interest of society and have also helped shape its curriculum. Christian parents give their children over to a godless system for 6-7 hours Monday to Friday that teaches them all sorts of God-hating ideas. They also spend most of their time in the company of peers who are probably godless and who try to influence them with ungodly ideas. Yet parents spend little or no time teaching their own children God’s word and barely manage to bring them to Sunday service and dump them in youth church hoping youth teacher might perform some miracle in their lives to make them godly. Now remember that in youth church, they are also interacting with other youths like themselves who have probably obtained similar ideas from outside the church. Then we wonder why our children have next to nothing in the knowledge of God’s word and don’t exhibit the character of the kingdom of light. I will tell us why: They have spent virtually all their time engaged with the ideas of the kingdom of darkness and we have given over our children to be taught by the world and not by God.  Our kids spend 30-40 hours being taught by the world and virtually no time with their parents. We haven’t taught them, we haven’t disciplined them and mentored them as we ought because the world has lied to us that what matters in the development of children is that they go to school, get good grades, do sports, participate in activities and make them children of hell. We leave the sex education of our children to the world, letting them teach our children all sorts of perverted ideas about sex, relationships and family to them. God forgive us, what shall it profit a man who gains the world yet loses his own soul.

We have bought into the psychological studies of the world that says we should let out children play games, watch TV to develop their minds and all sorts, yet a cursory research will show you that in the past societies, children gained maturity because they spent more time with older, wiser men and women who trained them to become men and women too. What are we teaching our children!. God help us.

As a youth teacher, I have had the opportunity to interact and spend a lot of time with youths from many Christian families. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we are in dire straits and things are very bad. I apologize if this is harsh but it will be for our good to arouse us out of deep slumber. Christian parents have failed miserably in their responsibilities as being the teacher, trainer, model, nurturer and the discipleship of their children. We spend so much time evangelizing the world but we have failed in evangelizing our own homes. We have been trying to improve the garden of others but have left our own gardens to be overgrown with weeds. We have not been good role models to them because when they look at us, they don’t think our faith is important because we don’t walk it ourselves. Children will learn to become what they see and not what they hear you speak.

Romans 12:2 says: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The world wants you and I to conform to its pattern and it possesses a well-equipped arsenal at its disposal to achieve its aim. The educational system is now almost completely in its control from primary education to the university campus and its entire purpose and objective is indoctrinate our youths with ungodly ideas. The media is almost entirely now its control as it spews forth all sorts of dark ideas from premarital sex, homosexuality, drunkenness, drugs, violence and a endless list of vile acts. Let’s not even mention fashion, music, movies, reality shows, programs, social media apps like tinder, instragram etc. The world has sold us a big lie, that to survive we need to learn how to behave like it. It says for us to be relevant, we have to fit it. But do we still read and believe in the bible?. That our relevance lies exactly in NOT being like the world. IF we lose our light and salt, what good are we?.

2 Peter 1:3 says the power of God has provided us with EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Do you believe this?. Our mind need to be continually converted and transformed , even if we are truly saved. Why? Because our minds are the seats of our thoughts, imaginations and decision making and we are daily being bombarded by the world with ungodly idea that many times look like good reasonable ideas. If our minds are not transformed, we will think like the world, talk like the world and behave like the world. There would be no difference. If you are a parent, a pastor, youth teacher or just a Christian, I want you to know you are in a battle for your mind and by extension you soul. We are wrestling with the beasts of Ephesus, thoughts, ideologies and imagination that are exalting themselves against the knowledge of Christ, lies from the pit of darkness that are working hard to suppress the truth about God. On what side would you stand? We need to repent of our lackadaisical attitude and nonchalance to God’s command, and take on the whole armour of God to stand. The war is raging on, and we are fighting dragons. May God grant you the grace to fight for your mind and be set free. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Amen.

Photo by Lou Levit on Unsplash

A HOUSE LEFT TO US DESOLATE: A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS ON THE STATE OF CHRISTIANITY IN NIGERIA

A HOUSE LEFT TO US DESOLATE: A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS ON THE STATE OF CHRISTIANITY IN NIGERIA

INTRODUCTION

The old testament prophet was a man in a precarious and dangerous predicament. The prophet was torn apart by a fierce unwavering loyalty to his God on one hand and a passionate love and concern for his nation. This made his job one such a difficult and thankless task and a responsibility no one really wishes to be saddled. The prophet was always on an inevitable collision course with everyone around him, often to those closest to him and of his household. It was always like a death sentence was placed on his head as it were because inevitably the prophet’s message always brought him into conflict with both the political and religious establishment of his time. And so the old testament prophet presents us the spectacle of those called upon to present a message that was neither good nor delighting. No one naturally feels inclined to be a kill-joy or enjoys raining on people’s parade, the exception being individual who are sociopaths.

At several points in the writing of these essay, I have felt somewhat of the burden similar to that thrust on the biblical prophet of old times, not that I would be so presumptuous as to think of myself a prophet. I definitely am no prophet in the sense of the old testament prophet but I see myself invariably putting on the shoes of one in the sense of one called upon to give stern warning when God’s people go down a path taking them further away from God and on to treacherous grounds and into terrifying dangers.

My burden in writing this essay is of two types- that I myself be not a hypocrite on one hand in writing this as the Holy scriptures commands to take out the speck in our own eyes before taking on the task of removing the log from our brother’s eye. On the other hand, it is also a great spiritual and moral burden that I take on my shoulders for the all believer in Jesus Christ who may read this that I must make abundantly clear I do not take lightly. The spiritual man judges all things but he himself is judged of no one is both a comforting scripture verse to take on in this task but also, more importantly, a very cautious one. I am assured that in taking on such a burdensome task as this, the grace of Christ is sufficient in all things to lead us into the truth, for one must not remain silent when things go horribly wrong but by necessity laid upon one speak of that which one has seen and speak the words that burn like fire within. When a house is being engulfed in flames, it is neither the time for mirth nor for courteousness in the task of rescuing individuals in the building at risk of death, and such a task might sometimes mean the grabbing of individuals who are not exercising the appropriate alarm at their predicament.

Such is the courageous task of a watchman, a crucial task Christ has called all who profess to be believers. I am no academic theologian by training nor a preacher and all I rely on as authority is the Holy Bible and the light of its knowledge and wisdom as revealed which is more than sufficient. This I have obtained through my lifetime of long, careful, rigorous and thorough investigation and study of the Bible and many other works of much finer and more brilliant theologians than myself. I believe that will much more than suffice to carry on this essay of a polemic nature and that you my reader will keep reading. I have divided into various topical headings to make it easier to read.

OUR “CHURCHIANITY” IS NOT CHRISTIANITY

The Lord Jesus Christ speaking through the Apostle John in the book of Revelations sent a letter to a historical church of the city of Sardis in Asia minor. This church received a shocking and damning verdict. The verdict of Jesus Christ  went thus: “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead”.

This was indeed a sobering message for that a church but it also came with a wakeup call to strengthen what was left that was yet to die and to repent of their grievous errors. I would argue that as one ponders the message for the church in Sardis, that the state of that church closely mirrors in such vivid details that of Christianity in Nigeria and our practice. That the Nigerian church, the body of believers or Christians as it were, has a great reputation of being very much alive but for all intent and purposes either dead or gasping for final breath. This essay sets out with the task of showing you with proofs taken from bible scriptures and observations specific examples and our practices in our Christian community. Philosophers define any truth as having two fundamental properties that it must possess- correspondence and coherence. This means that which we define as truth must correspond to reality; empirical evidence collected by observation must support our assertions and our statements must be altogether coherent without any contradictions inherent in its parts. So now I set forth to the task at hand with this notion of truth in mind.

It has become normal to see millions of Nigerians flock into churches every Sunday in every nook and cranny the country. There is virtually nowhere in the country that a church won’t be found. According to Operation World, the population of Christians in Nigeria 9at least those who identify as Christians) is around 80 million and make up about 51% of the total population of the country. That number is staggering considering that there are more Christians in Nigeria than the total population of the United Kingdom.  Some unconfirmed statistics source report that there are presently more churches to be found in Nigeria than there are registered commercial companies. You could have a high degree of certainty that you could find a church on almost every habitable hill, mountain, groves, street corner, riverside, flowing stream or any empty building with a big enough space to contain a congregation. In Nigeria, the business of religion is really booming and the market is bullish. Our most successful ventures happen to be churches and that is not accidental.

A casual observer might be impressed by the visible façade of religious activity that characterizes religious church life in Nigeria. However, a closer look quickly reveals there is much more to this that meets the eye and one should not be simply carried away or deceived by what one sees on the surface. A much thorough examination of the state of affairs will unveil the superficiality of religious life that only serves as veneer, cover and a smokescreen for what really exists underneath in what is the murky waters of Christianity today in Nigeria.  Christianity in Nigeria is spiritually almost in a comatose state and without the urgent resuscitation of repentance and prayers, on its way to imminent death and burial. The deception of outward religion is that it is usually long spiritually dead before its deadness becomes apparent in everyday life. And it is a needless venture to point to the case study of Christianity in Europe, one only needs to critically assess the impact, if any, of religious life on the life of the country itself.  A lot of Nigerian churches are aptly described by the words of Jesus Christ as white-washed sepulchers containing decaying bones. In its panache and quest for societal relevance, the church has gradually lost its identity, its moral leadership and has actually lost the relevance it has sought by compromising with the world. How can a church that looks and acts exactly like the world be any relevant to it? The people of the world know how to be worldlier than the church could ever possibly be, yet the church has taken it upon itself to adopt ideas and methodologies to make it more appealing to the world. This is a classic case of a fool’s errand.  Have we become that spiritually blind? I might dare say considering that the percentage of Christians and that of the closest religion which almost add up to 100% of the total population, the church may now actually be the world anyways.

The relevance of the church has commanded by Christ was that it be the light of the world, showing the lost the way of redemption out of the darkness of the world. The church is meant to be the salt, adding moral value and goodness to the world but rather it has been thrown out and trampled on by world, as our places of worship and altars are desecrated by those who have no business near holy things except as converted souls. The church has become a laughing stock, a theater and stage for all sorts of performances and macabre acts that we call worship in our church services. The temple of the devils has now been co-located with the church address, many churches have become some sort of tech-hub where all sorts of strange doctrines have now found a comfortable workspace. The children of light have mingled with the dark, and the righteous and those who practice wickedness now have a joint place of gathering, and Christ and Belial are both exalted in the center of our worship and on our altars. What a shame!  All in the mantra that God is love, is that not it? So we wish to get along with everyone and welcome with open hands all and sundry and tweak our worship to suit the needs of unrepentant, God-hating people. It doesn’t matter, let them come as they are and come anyhow, Jesus accepts all as they are, baggage and all that, he loves them too much and they require no inward transformation or conversion. Is that the doctrine that Jesus Christ taught? Where have we gotten this dark, twisted version of Jesus Christ who is sissified and is just there like a needy helpless romantic waiting for us to give him some love. What an outrage!.

Many churches can be rightly called the synagogues of Satan. Like the bible prophet, my passionate love and concern is for so many sincere yet unsuspecting individuals who wish to  worship God in Spirit and in truth. Many would be shocked eventually to find themselves being shown the left hand by Jesus Christ when they open their eyes in eternity. How disastrous and undone would they be when told by the Lord: “I knew you not, depart from me, you who practice iniquity and sin” simply because the truth was hid from their eyes despite not missing any church service or special deliverance program. The church never told them of turning away from sin, living a holy life and departing from evil. It will be tears of disappointment and misery, the wringing of hands and the “Oh NOs”. A preacher once said that the loudest cries in hell would that of those who came so close, they who knew who Jesus Christ is yet were never known of him. We are ardent church-goers, and busy with religious activity but how much of that really affects our hearts and our lives?. Christianity is not a religion, it is a way of life that saturates the mind, heart and body of those who have had a transformation encounter with Jesus. May you be rescued out of the shackles of “churchianity” and enter into the glorious holy new life of Christ.

ON PENTECOSTALISM IN NIGERIA

A good friend of mine once retorted to me that labels are useful for helping us to define things and sort things out into categories but also do such a significant disservice in restricting things into neat and  tidy little boxes which may not always be that way in the real world. I tend to agree very much with this friend of mine. However, for the purpose of this essay, I choose to use such a classification for the purpose of clarity. A major branch of Nigerian Christian church are the Pentecostals. Personally, I was raised with a theology that could be loosely defined as Pentecostal theology although the theology of my church deviated quite significantly on many issues from mainstream Pentecostalism.

The Pentecostals are very well known for their spiritual fervency and passionate approach to worship. A major reason for the wild growth of Pentecostalism in Nigeria was the perceived coldness and deadness of the traditional orthodox churches. However, Pentecostals have fallen victim to their own hubris as the delight in fervent worship has opened to door to all forms and sorts of deviant worship that range from the strange to the downright bizarre.  According to church history, early Pentecostalism became prominent in Nigeria in the late 70s and 80s and at the time was doctrinally sound and bible based. However, at the start of the 90s, it has spiraled downward into the abyss esoteric mysticism in many Pentecostal churches from which it is yet to make a recovery. Many Pentecostal churches have closed the bible entirely  and do not engage in any sound scriptural exposition of the word of God. Instead, they have become miracle and deliverance centers where all sorts of solutions to problems are being peddled like medicine tablets for ailments.

Conrad Mbewe, a prominent African bible theologian, suggested that many of the preachers on the pulpits of Pentecostal churches behave like shamans and witch doctors. We have only exchanged our village native doctors for the ones that stand on pulpits and wear suits. How so you might ask?. Back in the days before the colonialist ever set foot on the shores of our country, there were only the traditional religious practices that held sway at the time. In those times, one went to the shaman or witch doctor for solutions to problems and they would prescribe some specific sacrifices to be done, the materials needed and when to come for such rituals (Let me add that to the church’s shame, many so-called Christians and even church pastors still engage in such practices today of mixing paganism and Christianity today in syncretic practices that bring dishonor to the name of Christ).  The shamans then went into their closet where they communed to the spirits and secret, did whatever practice they did that no one else was privy to or understood. The shaman was very much feared and was a to himself and the people did whatever was told them because only the shaman has access to the gods and no one else did. Today, isn’t that what many modern Pentecostal preachers have turned themselves into? They have become some sort of spiritual shamans and witch doctors, special humans who possess some divine secret divine knowledge and revelation that is opaque and unavailable to everyone else. They speak as people who have some spiritual insight outside the Holy scriptures that we the laity are not privy. So we are bombarded with visions, dreams, prophecies, words of knowledge and dubious words that are invented whimsically. And many gullible church members do whatever these charlatans disguised as pastors in their well-polished suits say as if a suit and a large bible confirms divine authority.

The bible warns that the devil himself disguises himself as an angel of light and how much more the devil’s ministers would disguise themselves as servants of light. How blinded have we become by our inordinate paganist and idolatrous regard for “men of God” that was not commanded by the bible!. I am not clamoring for the disrespect of clergymen but that this respect be based on the scriptural warrant that is given for it. You read stories of women who were exploited by some their spiritual leaders  and were fearful to call them out because they thought these were servants of God and were trusted to do the right thing. This is heart-breaking and an abomination to God!. The day any preacher veers off either to the left or the right of the scriptures should be the day we start to question the authority with which such a preacher speaks. During the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, he was challenged by the religious leaders to declare by what authority he spoke, and he plainly said his authority was from above. The religious leaders understood that a man cannot just by himself speak that which he thinks is right without receiving the authority somewhere. And for any preacher, teacher, pastor or prophet today, that authority must come from the scriptures.

If any pastor is not speaking from the authority of the scriptures and the word of God, he or she has no authority to speak, none whatsoever.  You can sometimes see some speakers in TV or online preaching for several minutes without making any reference to scriptures. People are not there to hear a pep talk or motivational speech but the living word of God. Any preacher who won’t speak from God’s word should be shown the way out of the pulpit, and if preachers decided to forcefully remain on pulpits because they started the ministry, it only confirms that the church is a personal business and not a church of Christ. I enjoin you to let no one beguile you with some spurious bible verse talking about “not touching the Lord’s anointed and doing his prophets no harm”, an example of a bible verse taken so out of context it is ridiculous that anyone could be deceived by what could be termed a biblical sleight of hands.  A last word on this is that Apostle Peter says clearly all believers are a royal priesthood, and this is founded on one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ and his revelation through God’s word. No man and I repeat no man had no authority except that which comes from the divinely inspired, sufficient and inerrant word of God.

It is most distressing that we are the most informed Christian generation in history but also the most ignorant of spiritual truths. The fast-paced technology age in which we now live has also crept down into our religion such that we prefer nice-sounding clichés quickly distilled from motivational books written by preachers,  Youtube videos and some motivational preacher-speakers than to sitting down to an in-depth study of God’s word. In fact, the scripture knowledge of some Christians is obtained from worship song lyrics!. Hardly do you find many Christians today who spend hours poring over scriptures in bible study. When we survey the landscape of Pentecostalism today, it paints a desolate picture because that terms means virtually nothing meaningful and means all kinds of kinky religious practices in modern times. In a bid to be the latest church trend, many ideas and concepts totally alien to the gospel Christ have been imported into many so-called Pentecostal churches in a bid to attract the crowds. When did the Holy Spirit and the bible become insufficient to us as Christians?. A regular church attendee can now possibly go to church for an entire year and never hear a message about living a holy life, departing from evil, loving others apart from themselves and such an individual is confident to say he or she is a Christian when question of faith are posed to them.

The Pentecostal are now just a bunch or a collective of misfits from a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices. When scriptures enjoins us to have fellowship with each other, it also quickly adds that such a fellowship should be with the Father and Son Jesus Christ in the spirit of truth. When one considers what is called the fellowship together of Pentecostal churches and allied organizations, what is clearly demonstrated is more of ecumenism rather than a deep spiritual fellowship. Ecumenism is very dangerous, a vile spiritual poison that contaminates the purest fountain of spiritual worship because we validate those who spread error and harmful teachings by openly associating with them and more importantly, the leaven of unsound doctrine gradually creeps in unawares to leaven the entire loaf of sound doctrine in the few churches that still stand on biblical truth.  It is no surprise that the scriptures speaks of false brothers creeping in unawares because the attitude of laxity and unwatchfulness in our bid to be friends to all and sundry. As Christians, the bible commands us to follow peace with all men as much as lies in us, but nowhere are we commanded to extend a hand of spiritual fellowship and communion to corrupting influences in the body of Christ. The scriptures cannot be broken, let us not be deceived, bad communication corrupts good manners.  If you a bit unsure of this or flatly disagree, then I challenge you to do a thorough reading of the epistles of Apostle Paul on false teachers and their doctrines, especially the book of Galatians. This should be sufficient enough to be a confirmation of this. The only thing that the mighty apostle Paul attached a curse to was that preaching of a different gospel to that which was received from Jesus Christ himself, yet we see so many antichrists today in churches today preaching an anathema to the doctrines of salvation and grace and other Pentecostal churches feel comfortable enough to associate with such individuals. If we believe upholding biblical Christians is too difficult, hard or strenuous, then its high time we closed our churches and went home rather than casting aspersion on the name of Jesus Christ. The other and better alternative is to cry to the Holy Spirit to help our weakness and grant us the courage to remain firm and contend for our faith. This marriage of strange bedfellows and intimate dance of wickedness with light is an aberration, a perversion and great evil in the sight of the Lord. The church is the sheepfold of the lord, where the sheep he purchased with his own shed blood are to be protected, sheltered and fed, and if our spiritual leaders don’t know their job as shepherds, then my only prayer is that God makes them step aside.

I stopped being a Pentecostal because the Pentecostal church is totally lost; morally and doctrinally. Most of our churches have abandoned true biblical doctrine and created their own version of the Christian faith. We cannot go create our own way of salvation because there is only one way, one truth and one life, we can’t go pursue our own way of righteousness like the Pharisees and expect to accidently find our way to salvation. Many of so-called pastors on many Pentecostal church pulpits don’t know God at all, their lives do not reflect people who have encountered God because a man or woman cannot encounter The Almighty God and remain the way they were. One could argue that some of them did know God in bygone days, but they have since wandered far astray. My passion for this issue is so that many gullible and unsuspecting members sitting in our pews should not wander unknowingly to hell because of following shepherds headed for hell themselves. Before you go to church next Sunday, you had better do a careful and thorough examination of your church and your pastor to establish the truth of what you are being taught. In the first three verses of Luke, he said he himself set about to carefully and thoroughly search out the things which he had heard so that the recipient of the letter would be able to establish firmly the validity of those things he has been taught. We need to be Berean Christians today more than ever,  people who investigate to search out the claims the men and women on our pulpits make to ensure they are scriptural and true. We should never leave that task to social critics on the pages of our tabloids or neophytes on Youtube videos. Does it bode well that our doctrinal accuracy is being examined for us by those who have no part whatsoever in Christ? Is our godly heritage that cheapened and of no consequence to us?. I am not a Pentecostal not because I hate Pentecostalism.  I strongly  believe that the warmth and passion for worship it brought was a breath of fresh air for a traditional church that had lost fire and grown cold. I have stopped being a Pentecostal because we are now an empty shell, possessing a passion that is not from God, a fire that is a strange fire and a warmth not for Christ but for the world.

The Pentecostal movement has moved from conformity to the world to an unholy fusion to the world where a day in church is no different from a day out in the cinema or an entertainment show- we now offer on the menu of our church services comedy, dancing, singing, film shows, a performance/show by the Pastor-showman, we have the rousing applause and the call for an encore, we have the hollers (ours is halleluyah and amens), the whoops, the jumps and the falling slain and drunken in the “spirit’, we have the strange words we say when we have taken leave of our senses (like a drunk fellow in a pub can also say), political segments for politicians of all ilk, and sometimes show a TV match on match days too and finally have a few bible verses thrown into the mix. The bible verses are just a charade to remind us that although we are really here for entertainment, it is ‘spiritual’ entertainment and one is not surprised that even secular stand-up comedy acts now throw in bible verses and poke fun at Jesus Christ and we can all laugh along hysterically. Oh what depths we have fallen to as a church!. We are become like Lucifer, once bright and shining as lights in the Christian faith but have fallen to the depths of darkness and my heart mourns for what we have become. My unceasing prayers will be for God to lift the Pentecostal churches out from the murk and quick sand in which it is quickly sinking.

ON THE PLACE OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES IN OUR WORSHIP

Recently, a raging controversy gripped the Nigerian church, the great debate surrounding tithing. Given the amount of energy dissipated on this topic on social media, the attention given to it by church pastors and in discussions surrounding this matter among Christians, one would be forgiven for thinking that it was a doctrinal issue of almost equivalent importance as the 95 thesis of the German monk, Martin Luther that swept across the then Roman Catholic world and sparked the reformation. It is easy to get excitable in the passion of the moment. But alas, it soon became q apparent that this controversy was more a battle of egos rather than a battle for doctrinal truths and was both spiritually and intellectually bankrupt in terms of edifying the church. In serious doubt was the intellectual rigor and morality of those in the thick of the fray on this issue. Many  of the protagonists and antagonists of the tithing debacle knew next to nothing scripturally in terms of doctrine on the matter with all sorts of issues being muddled up and lots of confusion generated. More so was that many others also did not possess the moral standing to weigh in on such a matter (this is a matter of personal opinion).

When the dust of this crucial debate finally settled, there was neither any doctrinal insight, nor enlightenment obtained for the building up of the body of Christ as could be said for the reformation. Church life continued as before while waiting with bated breaths for the next scandal to break.  I examine this particular issue for two reasons. We are unconcerned and unbothered by compromise of significant spiritual values (such as the total loss of moral virtue in our religious worship and lifestyle) and neither are we concerned by the general level of doctrinal and theological ignorance of many of our clergymen, their peddling of several strange, false and heretical doctrines across our church landscape amongst many others. Rather, what the fancies of our excitable minds are dogfights on how much should be given to God in way of tithing and if that should a criterion for heavenly reward. The abysmal depths to which the church has descended in its religion is beyond shocking. Many so-called Christians can always be trusted with certainty to come alive with much passion on discussions that have to do with pecuniary gain or worldly wealth notwithstanding the total lack of such passions in the exercising of spiritual disciples such as prayers, bible study, fasting among others. Albeit, that was a brief but topical digression to where I was headed.

I argue that in most (and I dare say more than 95%) Nigerian churches today, the Holy Bible- the authoritative, infallible, sufficient and inerrant word of God, is closed, remains closed and has been closed for many years. I will set forth to defend my position thus by first of all providing some explanations. When I say the bible is closed in most churches, I do not mean that they do not refer to the bible at all, nor do I mean that the bible is completely absent in such churches. The distinction I will make here is that when I say that the bible is closed I mean that the bible is not practically taken as completely authoritative in every aspect of church life and worship, in forming the sermons, counselling and informing the opinions of the preachers. I do not refer to few snippets of scripture verses taken here and there to support some bogus claims made by some dubious preachers in their sermons.

Why do I say this? Because a cursory read through the bible will show that it is a such a book that can be used to support all kinds of ignominious claims. Anyone could find a scripture verse taken out of context to support any claim and manipulated to deceive unsuspecting and impressionable minds.  A famous bible scholar appropriately said that “any bible verse taken out of context is a pretext”

When I argue that the bible is closed and remains closed in most churches, I mean the careful, rigorous, thorough and systematic study and exposition of God’s word has been relegated to the bins of church life. Ours is no longer a rational faith but an esoteric and mystical faith where we rely on human wisdom, golden nuggets, quotes, clichés which are words of the “man of God’ or could be some revelation available only to these special persons and not to everyone else. In addition, credence is given to some dreams, visions, a prophetic word more than to the revealed word of God. We are a very privileged generation of Christians in that we have the limitless treasure trove of spiritual information available to us than at any other time in history yet remain most ignorant of this. We have bibles on our electronic devices, bible study tools, Youtube videos, podcasts, and a unprecedented amount of biblical information available to us online, yet walk around taking some pastor’s word as the final word on many areas of spiritual life and not the bible. Does this not make us spurious? Is that not paganism and idolatry disguised in the form of human worship?. Some preachers can be cut some slack because they are only supply the demand as many of the congregants in the pews seek to satisfy their itching ears and lustful appetites for the goods and comforts of this life. And so instead of servants of God who are only loyal to God and His word, what we have on our pulpits are soothsayers who stitch together disparate scripture verses to tell the congregation it is well, to prophesy peace when there is danger and blessings where there are none to be found. I can empathize with the allure and attractiveness of religion as a sedative for life’s pains and sufferings and the offer of hope in a blighted and tough world to survive in. Faith can seem to be the silver bullet for all our problems. Who doesn’t love some good news? But is that the good news that Jesus Christ came to offer to us by his death and sacrifice that of a life of ease, debauchery and hedonism?! What bibles do we reading in this generation?!. Jesus Christ didn’t come that we might get all the lustful fleshly desires of our hearts (big mansions, a good job, a convoy of cars and a successful business). Hard work in God-honouring work provides one with that for one’s needs. And we are promised to be provided our needs not for our greed, and our ever-expanding excessive appetites for pleasure. It is no surprise that a lot of gullible church attendees have been sold this lie because their pastors do not know any better themselves. The scriptures are inspired by God and useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right so that we may be prepared to do good work for God in this life. And if the preachers in our churches are not preaching from it, they are just giving a pep-talk of human’s opinion, and the opinion of humans count for nothing. The word of God will never fail and does not go out without accomplishing what it says. A human talking is just making sounds by moving air molecules.

ON WOLVES IN SHEEP CLOTHING AND FALSE DOCTRINES

There are several preachers who should not even be allowed to teach a bible study class, needing the scriptures to be more explained to them in-depth just like Apollos had to be taught by Priscilla and Aquila. Yet they are leading people in churches across the nation, blind guides leading the blind to their ultimate ruin.  Some preachers have added “Life coach” to their titles or “motivational speakers” and that is quite appropriate description for what they do and it is a shame they still retain the title of preachers. It was better for the Christian faith if they went full time into life coaching and such like and to leave the pulpit to those who really have the spiritual gifts and call to do the work of preaching.

There are two categories of false preachers and teachers. The first category is made up of those preachers who are indeed genuine Christians but preach erroneous doctrines because they don’t know any better. They were thought and now teach to others deficient doctrines, they possess inadequate biblical knowledge, are untrained and fall into errors and pitfalls in their biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. Preachers of this sorts can easily be prayed for, supported, helped and restored back to the right paths under proper guidance and we should.

The truly dangerous preachers are those that possess diabolical and injurious intentions, who have willfully decided to turn the sheep of Christ into bread and make merchandise of the gospel. These individuals are truly poisonous and dangerous serpents in God’s vineyard, they are perverted, reprobate and unregenerate men and women who deface the pulpits of the house of God taking captive the simple and are reserved for eternal darkness unless they repent. They are of the sorts Apostle Peter called wells without water, mists driven by a storm, speaking empty boastful words and appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, enticing people who have barely managed to escape from the deception of the world. These people promise freedom while they are captives to all kinds of corruption and moral depravities of the flesh. They have wandered off the righteous paths to follow financial gain, they are a disgrace and a stain on the fellowship of Christian saints, they say foolish and senseless things about heavenly beings and spiritual subjects that they know nothing about at all.

In our bid to avoid being “judgmental” because these unscrupulous individuals try to restrain calling them out by the church, quoting the words of Jesus Christ “Judge not” out of context. Genuine Christians have allowed these ravening wolves to roam free in the church and make a bloody feast of the sheep of Christ, bringing reproach and shame to the blessed name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Genuine pastors and teacher have lost their moral spine and lack the courage to call out their errors because of this ill-conceived notion of brotherhood and fellowship. This is appalling!. Can we fellowship with the servant of error? Are we to be strange bedfellows of the camp of the devil?. Are we in service to humans or servants of the most high God? Now let me be clear that enjoining the open corrections of such individuals is not a call to go into mud-slinging and ad hominem attacks on persons of such indviduals which has become the favorite sport and hobby of some suspicious preachers and co-called on-air or on-web personalities. The task I am setting forth here that we show clearly the errors of their doctrine and lay bare the error of their ways. When a preacher says people cannot get into heaven without tithing, we should challenge such ideas openly before they run amok and become pervasive in the church body. Such doctrines should be corrected with what is written in scriptures and to contend with such merchants of falsehood with the undiluted, powerful word of God, a powerful hammer that crushes rocky and stony hearts figuratively and will crush those who stand in opposition to Jesus Christ and his  word.

I am speaking of scriptural exposition of the word of God and the teaching and training of our church laity to sniff out these doctrinal errors and to advice members to avoid the teachings of such men in their bestselling books and other audiovisual materials. From the tone of the bible on scriptural error, it appears that it will be a difficult task to spot doctrinal error and it won’t be very obvious and so we are already somewhat at a disadvantage.  Hence the need to always be on guard and contend for the faith once given to the Christians of old times. God is no respecter of persons and there have been notable and eminent preachers, bishops, scholars throughout the course of church history who have gone a-sliding down the slippery road of doctrinal errors. Therefore, no preacher, pastor or teacher is too big or too advanced in scriptural knowledge to fall into error on certain subjects no matter the title, prestige or name. If in doubt, you can search out the names of great men and scholars such as Pelagius, Apollinaris, Arius amongst many others who ended up as heretics in the early church.

But woe to pastors, preachers and teachers who have sold the sheep down the river for a measly morsel, in their fraternizing with such fellows in the name of Christian fellowship. This fellowships have become nothing more than a social club or a collection of people taking our Lord’s name in vain. How you may ask? Then let me answer by saying how dare  we as the laity and the clergy take the name of a Holy God and the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and take it on to ourselves by calling ourselves “Christians” or “Shepherds” respectively when we possess nothing that puts us in close relationship or association with the nature and character of Jesus Christ. We neither emulate Christ in his lifestyle nor follow his teaching yet we presumptuously take on his name. How great our folly!. When Jesus Christ taught the Lord’s prayer, the first words were that the name of God for hallowed and  given reverence. He also plainly spoke that all those who obeyed his commands and followed his teachings were truly his disciples. Jesus himself called himself the good shepherd and for those who dare to take on that title of Christ for our church and to turn around and trample on the trust placed in them by Christ and their church flock commit a most atrocious and heinous crime. Our only prayer for them is that may their souls not be damned.

ON SPIRITUAL VIRTUES

I believe it is high time we all be sick and tired as I am certain God is I may be so bold to make a claim, of churches trying so hard to be socially relevant but are spiritually empty. People sit in these church pews 52 Sundays each year for several years and some never hearing the gospel being preaching to warn of their critical need of salvation and to escape from the wrath to come. There is no shedding of a single tear for sin, no brokenness nor remorse for evils committed against God.  Yet the message of grace and the all-loving God prospers and God is made to be a needy being in the sky just waiting for us with open arms in our state without any need for change.

In many churches, the congregation comes rejoicing  into God’s presence with their  ill-gotten wealth and the loot from shady business practices and bribes only for the Pastor to profusely bless the congregation and for all to say amen and believe all is well. Yet while those offerings are being given at the altar, the cries of the helpless maids being oppressed at home, the office staff not paid, the subordinate at work being harassed,  the victims of wicked acts committed to fellow humans go up to God and God has promised He will never close his ears to cries of the widows, orphans and the helpless in the society. But we don’t need to be bothered about all that, we can go on posting bible verses and spiritual quotes on our social media timelines without a dent on our consciences. Maybe the problem is that we actually have lost the voice of conscience and hopefully reason can help bring us back.

Many preachers never preach messages that sternly warn on societal evils that God frowns on such abortion is a great evil before God, sex outside marriage is outside God’s plan, defrauding others  what grieves God, oppressing the helpless and innocent is abhorrent to Him but we can go on pretending that we belong to Christ and live as he commands. Several pastors are not bothered as long as come rejoicing and giving money into the church coffers. I pray God makes many people realize that some pastors are the enemy of their souls. Oh to God that we could see how sickening this is to God, because he is tired of our sacrifices and offering, our new moons, and love feasts he no longer has any pleasure in them. Our voices are the loudest when it is time to bemoan how evil how society has become and to let out sighs that the good are cut short from the land and the righteous have no place. I will say this but not according to the Lord, that it may possibly be that the good are being taken out of the land to spare them of the great evil that may soon come on us if we do not repent of our ways. Maybe they are blessed because they will not be present to see the day of trouble, affliction and visitation that lies ahead of the church, because when the false prophets say peace, that is when exactly that sudden destruction comes.

God sternly warned the tribes of Israel about the dangers of blood guiltiness and violence on the edge of the Jordan river as they were about entering the promised land of Canaan. He warned that the land would vomit them out just as it did their predecessors for their inhumane acts. I wonder why we could be so surprised when despite all the violence and wanton destruction of the souls of men in our churches, we are shocked things are going so wrong. When preachers defile the women in their churches, help young girls kill innocent babies and engage in very dark, despicable things, we have enthroned the prince of darkness himself in our church service. The longsuffering and mercy of God is that which has prevented so far from being completely consumed. Yet we expend energies arguing over tithes and offering. Of what use is that to our situation? Shall we bribe God with a tenth or even more of our blood money, or do you realize we bring before God blood money wealth we have obtained by cheating the system, doctoring the account books of our companies and the government, when we oppress the poor, miscarry justice, cheat the powerless, break our promises, pilfer and pillage the coffers of our places of work and churches?.  Oh that churches told all their members not to give offerings for a Sunday but to bring repentance before God.

What is true religion? Apostle James in his inspired eponymous book charged that true religion acceptable to God as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Therein lies no mention of getting miracles, calling down fire on our mortal enemies, reaping an abundant harvest from sowing some bogus seeds and expecting some outrageous rewards, excessive dancing and gaiety in God’s presence or spending copious amounts of time in miraculous services, special retreats and conferences and causing untold hardships to the community afterwards. James was saying true religion is practical, it can be seen, it is applicable to life and it controls how we live our lives. For all our religious fervor, passion and spiritual heights and emotions, can we truly show that our religion goes beyond our professing and to our hearts? Do not be a false believer professing a false faith you do not practice. Apostle Peter admonished that to our faith, we should add virtue and to virtue, knowledge. If our faith does no produce any virtue in our lives, then our faith is dead as they come. Show me your faith that comes with the virtues of righteous living. Like the fathers of the reformation said in their statement of faith: We are justified in Jesus Christ by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone. Don’t be deceived, God is not mocked, genuine saving faith produces a life that conforms progressively towards that of Jesus Christ. If it isn’t in our churches, it is because many of our preachers are liars and the truth is not in our churches.

EPILOGUE
ON THE PLACE OF THE FIVE SOLAS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH IN THE NIGERIAN CHURCH AND PRAYERS

There are five solas, or what we may call the five fundamental foundations of the reformed Christian faith which diverged from Roman Catholicism after the reformation

The first of the Christian faith Solas is definitely Sola Fide, that we are saved by faith in Christ alone. Faith comes by hearing and hearing the sound, truthful word of God. In any church assembly where the bible is closed, the people in such gatherings will soon wander to doctrines of men and finally the doctrines of devils through the deceitfulness of sin.

The second Christian sola is Sola scriptura, the scriptures being the God-breathed, revealed and authoritative word of God guiding us in all things, sufficient for life and for godliness and for guidance in all aspects of our worship and service to God. It contains no errors and contains all the truths we need. Sola Christo, tell us that salvation can be found in no one else nor any other name to be named in heaven or earth except through the name of Jesus Christ alone. Salvation and deliverance are neither in the name of dead or living saints nor heavenly angels and hosts.

We are redeemed Sola Gratia, by grace alone which is the free gift of God in that he chose us in him before the foundations of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him, not as a license to willful sinning nor to make sinning a practice, habit or lifestyle. The apostle John said, if you make practice and habit of sinning, the truth is not in us, don’t be deceived by lying grace preachers. The message of grace is probably the most misunderstood message in Pentecostal Christianity but without getting in long-winded theological propositions, grace is a gift from God through which we satisfy the righteous requirements of God’s law by being found in Jesus Christ AND abiding in him. And the entire Christian faith is Sola Deo Gloria, to the glory of God alone, that in all that we do, in our manner of conversation, comportment and lifestyle in this world, God Almighty is glorified in all things and through all things

Finally, my hope is for this essay to drive you my reader to your knees in repentance as it has done for the writer. We are altogether not guilt-free as we have either in willful sin of commission or tacit approval in looking the other way or propping up those who are guilty of these things. This is not an essay about churches or personalities but at heart a call to be jealous for the glory of saviour and King, Jesus Christ and for his spiritual sheep (you and I included) who he has paid such a steep price for, in that he lay down his life. I wish to avoid the tendency of religious discuss to quickly into personality and denominational brickbats and I hope the picture I have painted in your mind my reader has been one to dissuade you that I have got such notions in mind.

This is an essay for the restoration of the lost glory of the entire body of Jesus Christ in Nigeria, a body that is tainted, filled with spots and blemishes only repentance and prayers can remove away. It is not an anti-establishment message, it is a personal message that demands our collective turning back to God- in repentance in humility and remorse and in much prayer. I end with 2 Corinthians 7:14: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will heal their land. May God heal our church in Nigeria.  May our desolate house be fully restored and our walls be built up in righteousness and praise. Amen.

Footnote:I am not unaware of the various reactions that a work such as this might generate. I make no attempt to put this forward as a rigorous treatise on church theology. I may endeavour to make such an undertaking in the near future. I hope it is charitably accepted for what it is, a series of essays examining some very important issues for the Christian life. Having said that, I welcome all feedback, questions and requests for engagement that it may generate.

I also apologize for any grammatical errors that might have occurred in this lengthy work. The most utmost care was taken to proofread several times, but as this was done by a single individual, it was unavoidable that some mistakes would have slipped through. Continuous updates would be done as soon as these are discovered.