Saturday, 14 February 2015

The Nigerian Christian - Born into Spiritual Dimness.{Part 2}


This is the conclusion of an x-ray of the growing dimness in the Church in Nigeria and how the trend affects believers today. The first part of the article can be accessed here: Part1
The Christian faith has changed dramatically in Nigeria in the last 20 – 30 years. In our days, and before our eyes, a quiet but deadly assault was launched against the truth of the Gospel in our nation. The effect is that the Church in Nigeria has today grown more religious, but less godly. More in number, but less in the testimony of Jesus Christ. We have indeed abandoned the ‘old paths’ (Jeremiah 6:16), and the light of the Gospel is fast dimming in the land.

As a consequence of our waywardness, we are now passing through a period of FAMINE OF THE WORD OF GOD (Amos 8:11) in the Church in Nigeria. The resulting malnutrition is responsible for our individual and collective unfruitfulness in righteousness, and our inability to be a genuine LIGHT in the darkness of Nigeria. Our testimony, as the Body of Christ, is contrary to God’s clear expectation in Matthew 5:16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Famine of the word of God is extremely deadly for a Christian because we live by the word of God (Matthew 4:4), and we grow by the word (1 Peter 2:2, Hebrews 5:13-14). Many may argue that there is no FAMINE OF THE WORD in the Church in Nigeria because we hear lots of inspiring, stirring, motivating, or even very intellectual sermons in our churches. They may further add that we know more today about the etymology, exegesis, context, syntax, etc., of the word of God than any other period in history.

At the surface level, this is indeed true. But the reality is that DEAD WORDS don’t give life! It is not about the packaging of the word, it is about the LIFE in the word (John 6:62). It is the Spirit in the word of God that quickens man and imparts the LIFE of God - not the letters (packaging) of the word per se. As a matter of fact the Bible makes it clear that the letter kills (2 Corinthians 3:6). And that is why the Church in Nigeria seems to be dying – we have well-packaged word that is devoid of the life of Christ. “Can a church die?” some may ask. Yes, churches belonging to Jesus Christ may die if they persist in carelessness (Revelation 3:1-6, 2:5).

In our situation in Nigeria, it is crystal clear that whereas we are growing rapidly in numbers, our level of discipleship and maturity in the faith are clearly on the decline. That is what famine of the word does. It kills slowly. For man does not live by bread alone. We live by every word that proceeds out the mouth of God. But when the words we hear are not from His mouth, how can we live? Slow death becomes inevitable, unless there is repentance. That is the model of the decay that we see in the Church in Sardis as quoted earlier. They were probably not watchful when the dimness started in their land (verse 2), that’s why the first remedy that Christ prescribed for them in that verse was ‘BE WATCHFUL’. Verse 3 throws more light, “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.” Jesus referred them back to the word they heard in the past, probably because the word they were currently hearing had become corrupted, and that was why their Church was dying.

This ‘dying’ phenomenon operates at two levels, let’s look at them: 
(1.) Slow spiritual progress hinders us from receiving the fresh word or revelation that can move us forward to the next level. So the danger of stagnancy sets in. In Hebrews 5:11-12, the Apostle had ‘many things to say’ but he could not. Why? Because by the time they should have become teachers, they still needed to be taught the basic elements of the faith. The Church in Corinth had a similar problem as we see in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. Again, Apostle Paul had deep spiritual things to tell them, but he had to hold back because the brethren were still acting like babes. And, as long as they remained in that state, the milk of the word was all they would continue to get – and sooner or later, malnutrition would have set in because milk is not the proper diet after the elementary stage of life. Meat, and then strong meat, is the appropriate diet for moving forward to the next level.

(2.) The second point is even deeper in the way it affects the level of word in our lives, and it’s more reflective of our plight today. We see this most clearly in 2 Peter 1. You’ll notice that the Apostle used the word ‘REMIND’ (or ‘REMEMBER’ in some versions) three times in verses 12-15. Verse 12 is instructive; please allow me to paraphrase it this way, “Even when you are established in the truth, you still need to be CONSTANTLY REMINDED of the truth you know, so that your establishment can be maintained by the truth”. The implication is that if you are not constantly reminded of the truth you know, THAT TRUTH MAY ‘EVAPORATE’! Peter was so particular about this point, that he promised to arrange how they would continue to be reminded of the truth after his death (verse 15). That’s how crucial it is.

You would recall that the word REMEMBER also occurred in Jesus’ admonition to the Church in Sardis as we noted earlier (Revelation 3:3). James 1:23-25 is also somewhat applicable. Let’s apply the point to ourselves. And I pray that the Lord will open your eyes to the point I am about to make now. Those of us that got born again about 20-30 years ago had a level of the true word of God. But as we continued to sit under the teaching of the diluted Gospel that was introduced at that time, the truth that we knew at salvation started ‘evaporating’ because we were not being constantly reminded of that truth. And very soon, it was replaced by the diluted Gospel that was becoming more common in the nation. One feature of this diluted Gospel is that it takes our eyes off the centrality of THE CROSS as an indispensable and non-negotiable pre-condition for followership/discipleship.

Rather, it promises us wealth, health, happiness, and a generally stress-free life that is devoid of shame, pain, and sorrow. Because we were not watchful (Revelation 3:2), we bought into that lie, and over time, it has quietly taken off the burden of the cross of Christ from a lot of us. We are now a happy, clappy, jolly set of Christians that are blending slowly with the world that we are called to be separated from (Romans 12:2, James 4:4). To be candid, almost all the large denominations in Nigeria are using this diluted version of the Gospel to draw in huge crowds into their churches. This is how the Gospel has virtually been ‘killed’ in Nigeria – although the pews and purses of these denominations are growing daily.

What I have written will resonate with anybody that can look back in his/her life and remember a period of fervency, communion and sacrifice that seems to now be absent or diminished. Particularly if this has been for a prolonged period. (Short periods of ups and downs in the faith are understandable). Over a prolonged period, the absence of the pain of the cross may be an indication that we are dying internally, although our external fa├žade of religiosity may be intact. We may be as active, vibrant and useful as the Church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7), but without Christ at the Centre. This fake faith looks so much like the original that it is only by the Spirit of the Lord that we can discern the difference. The Church in Sardis actually thought they were alive, and so did all those around them! (Revelation 3:1)

Any Christian that values eternity would need to take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to return to the OLD PATH, and to persevere there at all costs. For it is looking unlikely that any of the denominations is ready to repent. Too much money and reputation are at stake. And none of the general overseers will want the empires they have built over the years to collapse. We all have a choice to make. We either follow the advice that Jesus gave the Christians in Sardis, or we may continue to follow the contemporary gospel of the day. Jesus’ word to the Church in Sardis was clear – “REPENT and HOLD FAST to the words you had in the earlier times” (paraphrased).

Jeremiah 6:16: "Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it".

Their response was: "We will not walk in it". Friend, WHAT IS YOUR OWN RESPONSE? Please speak to the Lord, cry out for mercy, and pray that your feet may be established in THE TRUTH Himself, so that your nourishment will flow directly from Him (1 Timothy 4:6). Amen.
Thanks for reading, God bless.
Word from
Church Watch in Nigeria

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