There are days we get so weak during hectic tasks and we may have to depend on energy drinks and some intakes of sugar to stay strong. There are men who consider themselves weak and they depend on paracetamol, tramadol or other substances for strength. Strength is such a thing that everyone desire! If there was a way to get strengthened without any side effects people would never be weak.
It’s not just a physical thing! A lot of people desire to be strong emotionally and spiritually. The same way we seek substances to help us stay strong when we are weak, many of us always seek ways to stay emotionally strong. Unfortunately, those who often brag about being strong emotionally and put up a strict and reserved personality are the ones who are very soft and emotionally weak. They are scared of getting hurt, scared of being left alone and scared of exposing their vulnerability. They only put up some attitude as a defence mechanism.
When we are weak we can not do much, we cannot fight and we cannot win. Weakness doesn’t guarantee victory anywhere, it’s not a virtue and it isn’t anything to be desired. But guess what? At one point or another, we will always experience weakness, we may not be strong all the time! The most cultured and moral person will still get to that point where they entertain certain thoughts. It is such a problem that we employ more strength in our ability to stay strong, we exhaust even the strength that we have as we seek strength.
Aside from how we pursue physical, financial and emotional strength, we also pursue spiritual strength. Some do this by depending on religion, some do it by joining certain mystic cults, some do it by reading horoscope, some do it by avoiding religion at all simply because they made an effort to seek strength there and it failed them. Atheism is another kind of spirituality, we can’t do away with the spiritual. Whether we realize this or not, nobody can entirely do away with spirituality. If we reject every known religion and spirituality that we know, there are forms of spiritual things we engage ourselves in without even knowing it.
Man is a spirit with a soul and body! God understands our weaknesses, he understands the frustration involved in seeking for strength, it’s like a hungry man exhausting the little money he has on a bet, a bet that isn’t sure! The frustration is intense. God offered us a way to escape this spiritual frustration, it makes us free of worry, it sets us free entirely from pursuing spiritual strength. Isaiah wrote in 40:29 of his book
“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who has no might He increases power.”
This has been God’s tradition since the beginning, he looks out for the weak people and offers them strength! He offers us spiritual strength and it shouldn’t be part of our struggles anymore. We may be struggling to make money, we may be struggling to deal with a breakup but our real personality which is the Spirit is strong! The problem has always been man’s rejection of God’s offer. Some reject God’s offer of strength in ignorance, they think it is just another religion, they think it’s another way that isn’t trustworthy.
God gives strength to the weak, this is spiritual strength but when the weak rejects this strength, how then can God empower them? God didn’t provide us with what to be sought for, we have no efforts to add any more, we have nothing to do any more than accept the strength he has offered us. We have believed that being morally sound and perfect in character will increase our spiritual strength but God has given us strength in a way that our character isn’t a problem anymore. With that strength, we can then live better. We become moral not as a pursuit of spiritual strength and favour but as an expression of the strength we have. The demand to live right as a believer isn’t in the sense some religious people seek it. It is like mounting a solar system and still not using electricity during sunshine! If the sun is shining, our lights should be shining. Paul wrote
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:12-13 NIV
We work, not in pursuit of salvation but as a reflection of what God is doing in us. We are not like the religious people who do all manner of rituals and charity in pursuit of salvation. We work as an expression of what God is already doing in us.
God ended religion in Jesus, the demands and the burdens of the law were fulfilled in Jesus. The man had been burdened with so many demands, the demands placed on man is above the little strength he has. And what did God do? He gifted us his own life that we might seek spiritual strength no more and just live the life he has given us. Why still go to the mountain to pray for seven days in pursuit of power? Why fast for twenty days just because we seek the anointing of Jesus? Why stay awake every night fighting a spiritual battle that was won already? Why the stress over what isn’t a problem again? Concerning our freedom, Jesus said
“I have told you this so that you will have peace by being united to me. The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world!” – John 16:33 GNB
It is by being united with Jesus that we experience untold peace and rest from all the struggles. It is the suffering of religion and the world that Jesus set us free from, this was some in spiritual strength in the sense that even if the world rejects us in the body, we’re victorious in the Spirit!
It is on the release of God’s strength that we find a standing, religion will not offer us this freedom. No matter the sacrifices and duration of prayers that we pray every day, nothing compares to the freedom God has given us through Jesus. Instead of pursuing the anointing of Jesus, we should take heed to what John wrote
“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.” – 1 John 2:27 NIV
We have received the anointing and it remains in us, we need no one to teach us otherwise other than what God’s anointing in us is teaching us. We don’t have to pursue it anymore, we don’t increase in anointing, we have all of it. The anointing means God’s presence and we have all of him!
Are you still pursuing spiritual strength? Why not accept the offering of God and be free from all worries? Is it the worry of hell or the worry of being accepted? We have been set free from all of them and therefore we don’t pursue it anymore, we simply live God’s life and enjoy his presence.
While we may struggle to get over a breakup, a financial constraint or fatigue in the working hours, we have been relieved of struggling or pursuing spiritual strength. We simply receive the strength God has offered us, we grow in it every day and we express that life of God in us. Isn’t this freedom?
Religion used to be nice, it’s not been so bad after all. At least, religion has always offered hope, a hope for God but the very unhelpful way of reaching God. Religion tries all the possibilities of human effort to reach God but it is usually coated with human error. Defining religion, James wrote that religion shouldn’t be the search for God, it shouldn’t be about fasting and prayer or about going to Church every Sunday. Good religion should be about reaching out to others with love, about helping the poor and speaking up for the voiceless… No more, no less. Let’s read the exact words of James 1:26-27
“Do any of you think you are religious? If you do not control your tongue, your religion is worthless and you deceive yourselves. What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.”
What God considers pure religion isn’t the search for him but taking care of the helpless and not conforming to the patterns of this world. We will be discussing religion from the human perspective and not God’s perspective. Unfortunately, what we know as religion today is a kind of conformity to the things of the world. Thinking we can win God’s favour by praying and fasting is worldly, thinking we can win God’s favour just because of Church attendance is worldly. Religion today is usually about self, we baptize it with what looks like spirituality but it still ends up being about self.
God never asked us to search for him, throughout history, God has always been the one coming down to look for the man. We didn’t create God, he created us. Religion today is like focusing on a container but not the content, it is like adoring a nice cup when thirsty. Nice cup don’t quench thirst, it is the content of the cup that would quench thirst. No matter how much you lick a cup full of water, it will never quench your thirst. You would rather lose more fluid licking the cup. It is like a hungry man who got an apple and continued to admire and lick the apple! He will stay hungry as long as he isn’t eating the apple. There is little or no satisfaction in the form in which something is contained but in the content itself.
This is what religion does to a lot of people, they are very thirsty and hungry, they are looking at what will quench their thirst and hunger but they are carried away by the form in which it came and sometimes what they have may seem to quench their thirst but only momentarily. As a kid, I always loved to prepare Garri. I would mould it into a baby and we would admire the artistry. As much as it appeared lovely, we would remain hungry if we decided to keep the mould in a glass, preserve it and watch it every day! We were meant to eat it if we truly wanted to satisfy our hunger and not to admire the form it came in. It’s like adorning a cake because it came in the form of a car, cakes are meant to be eaten and the fulfilment is in the eating and not in the decoration.
We see a clear example of this in the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8). Peter suggested that a shrine be made for Abraham, Moses and Elijah but that wasn’t why the transfiguration happened! It would have become another religion, it would have become another ritual but Jesus came to destroy the very forms that have been limiting us from enjoying fellowship with God, the forms that we had esteemed above the main stuff. Jesus wanted us to enjoy a direct relationship with God rather than watch him from a veil, he wanted us to enjoy God’s presence rather than assume what his presence feels like. If we have to seek him on the mountain, it is religion, if we have to seek him for days, it is religion and it is a limitation! Jesus is our direct access to all of God, he is the scandal of religion, the new thing written in the book of prophets that would happen. When old things were said to pass away, religion, as we know it today, was one of it.
While men have always lived as though they were made for Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8), Jesus came with a very different notion, making it clear that Sabbath was made for the man. Jesus is the rest that the Sabbath represented, when that rest came walking among them, they couldn’t recognise him because they were busy adoring the form and not the content. They were adoring an icon but couldn’t recognise the real thing it represented.
When you break a glass full of water, what gets destroyed is the glass and not the water! The water will spill from the glass, it may get evaporated and come back again as rain. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman (John 4:4-42) “whatever you guys have been searching for, you are looking at him!” Jesus used the metaphoric water of life to communicate with her. He was saying to her “you guys have always adored the vessels and forms but the time has come when people will access the content without any kind of restriction”. The Church Christ envisioned was the Church without walls, not another organised religion. Jesus was saying “with the cup, you can only take as much as it can carry… But you’ve got more than enough to fill you from the inside out, more than enough that you can swim in it!”
Religion limits us from how much of God we can access, it limits us with rules and regulations, with tithes, first fruits, circumcision and all manner of things. Imagine being told that God’s blessings to you are dependent on how much you were able to give, imagine being told that God’s acceptance of you depends on how good you are. As beautiful as religion was, it was never meant to last, it served its purpose and then the water couldn’t be contained in the cup, it ran over and even swept the cup off its feet! We need no man to grant us access to God, we have him inside of us and he has us inside of him. John wrote in 1 John 4:13
“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”
This is bigger than what religion can offer! God has given us his Spirit as a seal of his presence in us and our presence in him… It is a relationship! Since we now have more than the content of the cup inside of us, we don’t need the cup again. If the water Jesus offers is that which quenches thirst forever, then there isn’t need for the cup! He said to the woman in John 4:13-14
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
All the years of religion, people have remained hungry and thirsty! Here comes Jesus, offering permanent satisfaction!
In those days, Jews and the Samaritans argued where God’s presence was; whether it was the temple or the mountain but Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, “no need for that argument again, the worship of God has left the forms and God can only be worshipped in the Spirit and in the truth!” God’s presence had left those limitations to establish a relationship with people on a very personal level, in a way that all of God can dwell inside of us! When you drink of the living water, the cup becomes useless. This is how religion becomes useless to anyone who receives Jesus. Religion was a means people used to know if they could find God or please him but God came to us himself… Why still searching?
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life, anyone who eats me will hunger no more.” Jesus was simply saying “that bread label you’ve always admired, I am the bread! That cup you’ve always celebrated, I am the content! No need for the cup anymore since the content has been poured out to you!”
Religion celebrates the fancy cup, the material of the cup and it’s uniqueness but this cup cannot quench anyone’s thirst.
What Jesus offered us was way beyond mere water, the analogy of water and cup will not make so much sense if we forget to put the words of Jesus into consideration. He said “drink of me and you will never thirst again.” The cup becomes useful as long as we get thirsty but Jesus said he is the satisfaction we seek, when we drink of him we will never thirst again and there isn’t any need for the cup! We don’t need to preserve the cup, we don’t need to maintain the cup, all we have to do is stay grateful for the supply! The living water isn’t bound in cups, it’s a fountain that doesn’t run dry, you no longer need cup anytime you want more, you just let yourself be a bath in the fountain. God said in Jeremiah 2:13 NIV
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
Do you see that? Men are digging their own cistern in search for satisfaction and the quenching of thirst but God has always been available! Religion is like ignoring the spring waters beside you to dig the dry grounds for water!
God describes himself as the spring of living water, there is more to what the cup can hold. Jesus is the manifestation of this living water! Jesus is God’s way of saying “whatever the cup introduced to you, there is more to where it came from, come and quench your thirst forever!” Fishes don’t get thirsty because they live in the water! When we are found in Christ, we don’t get thirsty anymore! Concerning the overflow of this living water which marks the end of religion, the Bible says in Zechariah 14:8-9
“On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter. The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.”
That day isn’t yet to come, it is here already! There is one Lord, the only way, truth and life. Jesus said, “no man comes to the Father except by me”. There isn’t any religion that can lead to God, Jesus is the way to God and aside from him, we will miss it!
It is the end of religion, a science beyond the science of men, a truth that cannot be contained in a container, truth that cannot be bound within the four walls of our denominations. The living water has flown out from Jerusalem, no more to be found in the temple but throughout the ends of the earth. The Bible tells us somewhere else of what this living water will do when it starts overflowing. Ezekiel wrote in Ezekiel 47:8,12
“This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear a fruit because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”
This water is flowing today, we aren’t heading to the temple in Jerusalem, the water rather flowed from the temple to all parts of the world! Jesus is still calling us out of religion, he is saying “come unto me all who have been burdened with the stress of religion, the stress of wanting to find God; this is what you have been searching for, this is the rest you have always hoped for in religion. Come to me and you will have rest. It is no longer between you, Moses and the Prophets, it is only between you and God! Come and rest from fruitless works.”
Are you looking for where to find false teachers and ministers? They are closer to you than you would ever know. Just scroll up the social media, you would bump into one, get to the bookstore, you would lay hands on books that sound very Christian but full of deception. Look up so-called Christian channels on TV and you hardly come across teachers who aren’t false. These things keep thriving every day with great momentum and some church folks especially leaders continues to encourage us to keep quiet about it all in a bid to show love and protect the image of the Church. One thing I know is this, the devil will always take advantage of our silence to discredit the Church and also to deceive others.
Before considering anything else, let’s take a look at Titus 1:5-9
“For this reason I left you behind in Crete so that you would set right what remains unfinished, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, a man of unquestionable integrity, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of being immoral or rebellious. For the overseer, as God’s steward, must be blameless, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not violent, not greedy for dishonest gain [but financially ethical]. And he must be hospitable [to believers, as well as strangers], a lover of what is good, sensible (upright), fair, devout, self-disciplined [above reproach—whether in public or in private]. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy word [of God] as it was taught to him so that he will be able both to give accurate instruction in sound [reliable, error-free] doctrine and to refute those who contradict [it by explaining their error].”
The above is the qualification for elders, they should have integrity, they shouldn’t be caught in many webs of immorality, deceit addictions and other vices. And the Bible said they will be able to give accurate instructions in sound doctrine and they should also be able to disavow those who oppose the gospel directly or indirectly. We usually allow false teachers to creep into gospel-centric Churches when we skip these things. Elders aren’t appointed based on Charisma or availability but based on qualification. God chooses anyone who is available but they are called into leadership only on the grounds of qualifications. Availability gives you the opportunity of growth and maturity brings you to leadership.
Now that we have determined what true leadership in ministry is, we can go further with what Paul had written to see how we can handle false prophets.
1. IDENTIFY FALSE TEACHERS
Paul wrote in Titus 1:10-12
“For there are many rebellious men who are empty talkers [just windbags] and deceivers; especially those of the circumcision [those Jews who insist that Gentile believers must be circumcised and keep the Law in order to be saved]. They must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families by teaching things they should not teach for the purpose of dishonest financial gain. One of them [Epimenides, a Cretan], a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
We don’t just assume that people are false teachers just because they made one statement that wasn’t scriptural. Peter once acted unchristianly but it didn’t disqualify him nor made him a false teacher. Although we tackle false teachings with the same seriousness that we tackle false teachers, some people are not false teachers simply because they made one error in communicating. People make mistakes and these mistakes are minor and often followed by genuine repentance. However, in recognising false teachers, Paul gave us some things to look at.
They mix the law with the gospel
They upset families
They are focused on financial gains
They are glutton, interested in self!
When you look at the above, you discover that we must look at their characters, their mode of operation and what is the motivation behind their operation. It is easy to identify false teachers the moment you take cognizance of the above list. Anybody who makes it on this list, not necessarily 6/6 is a false teacher.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-20
“Beware of the false prophets, [teachers] who come to you dressed as sheep [appearing gentle and innocent], but inwardly are ravenous wolves. By their fruit, you will recognize them [that is, by their contrived doctrine and self-focus]. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the unhealthy tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruit, you will recognize them [as false prophets].”
Do you see that? They are known by their fruits and not by their gentle and kind appearance, not by their charity gestures or ambience. Their fruits are usually about self and not about the body of Christ, their doctrine is so flawed and it keeps people attached to them but not to Christ.
2. REBUKE FALSE TEACHINGS/TEACHERS
Paul wrote in Titus 1:13-14
“So rebuke them sharply so that they will be sound in the faith and free from doctrinal error, not paying attention to Jewish myths and the commandments and rules of men who turn their backs on the truth.”
When we have identified false teachers, we shouldn’t just take it lightly and play to the gallery. Anyone who condones false teaching isn’t worthy to be a leader and no sound Christian will condone false teachers because they are the biggest damage! We weren’t asked to control the damage but to prevent it from happening.
Paul didn’t just ask us to rebuke them but to do it sharply. To rebuke sharply means to take swift action against false teachings and teachers. The essence of doing this is so that people are directed to the truth and not the lies that come from the pulpit. We don’t just rebuke them privately, we also do it publicly so that baby Christians can understand that their teachings are false! Many believers argue that we should be silent about false teachers so that we can protect the image of the Church but what does the Bible say about that?
Rebuke is never done in silence.
Often times, it’s the same people who are silent in the effort not to judge others that end up judging those who are speaking up. They even go as far as trying to discredit those who speak up as weak! Some people who speak against the way Pastors exploit Christians financially have been called demonic agents by so-called Christians who don’t want to judge. But even if a weak Christian protested against false teaching, we know that God’s word gave us a guideline on how to relate with the weak. Paul wrote in Romans 14:1
“As for the one whose faith is weak, accept him [into your fellowship], but not for [the purpose of] quarrelling over his opinions.”
A weak Christian should have an opinion too and our response to their opinion shouldn’t be from the angle of unhealthy judgement. A false teacher and a weak Christian aren’t the same. The weak Christian is growing towards becoming strong but the false teacher is intentionally bent on deceiving believers. The weak Christian may speak ignorantly but grow if fed with the sincere milk of God’s word but the false teacher has a mission; to exploit and take advantage of others.
Rebuke is never done in silence, it is very vocal and fierce! Love is not soft all the time, sometimes it comes very hard and harsh. Love is clearly visible in the motive!
Rebuke is truthfulness
There is no such thing as love without truth. To remove truth from love is not possible. Any feeling where we claim it’s love but can’t say the truth is a dangerous display of mere emotions and sentiments. We rebuke false teachers by shedding light to their lies and by calling them out where necessary! We can’t be in fellowship with false teachers just for the sake of unity. The unity God wants is the unity of faith in Christ Jesus and not necessarily having fellowship with every Dick and Harry that uses the “Christ Label”.
The essence of abounding in knowledge and discernment is so that we can be able to approve what is true and right as written in Philippians 1:9-10. This way, we aren’t tossed around by every wave of doctrine. Let’s see how Paul puts it in Ephesians 4:14-15
“So that we are no longer children [spiritually immature], tossed back and forth [like ships on a stormy sea] and carried about by every wind of [shifting] doctrine, by the cunning and trickery of [unscrupulous] men, by the deceitful scheming of people ready to do anything [for personal profit]. But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ.”
Lots of baby Christians are carried away by skilful words of men, by crafts and tricky stage-managed miracles which are solely aimed at financial gains by these false teachers. When Paul wrote “speaking the truth in love” he wasn’t referring to being soft in the way we rebuke these things, he was rather referring to being bold to speak the truth with the right motive as we express and live in the truth. Growth is possible only in the reality of the truth.
Rebuke is not disrespect
Many people argue that believers have no reason to rebuke false teachings when their rank isn’t up to the level of who they were rebuking. That is to say, a Pastor has no business rebuking a Bishop because the Bishop is a father, a church member has no business rebuking a Pastor probably because the church member doesn’t have influence like the Pastor. However, genuine believers rebuke false teachers and teachings because of their loyalty to God and not royalty to man.
Being a bishop doesn’t immune false prophets and teachers from rebuke, being a founder of the world’s largest religious auditorium does not in any way disqualify us from rebuking lies and receipts targeted at believers by the founders. A false teacher may be controlling crowds and it is possible that one who doesn’t even own a congregation but knows the truth can rebuke him or his teachings. This is important because lives are at stake here. Paul wrote 2 Timothy 4:2-4
“Preach the word [as an official messenger]; be ready when the time is right and even when it is not [keep your sense of urgency, whether the opportunity seems favourable or unfavourable, whether convenient or inconvenient, whether welcome or unwelcome]; correct [those who err in doctrine or behaviour], warn [those who sin], exhort and encourage [those who are growing toward spiritual maturity], with inexhaustible patience and [faithful] teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine and accurate instruction [that challenges them with God’s truth]; but wanting to have their ears tickled [with something pleasing], they will accumulate for themselves [many] teachers [one after another, chosen] to satisfy their own desires and to support the errors they hold, and will turn their ears away from the truth and will wander off into myths and man-made fictions [and will accept the unacceptable].”
From the above verses, we see that false teachers can control the crowd because people are moving towards what they want to hear. Some want to hear prosperity, some want to hear healing, some want to hear all kinds of miracles and their hunger isn’t about understanding God’s word and growing into maturity. Having a crowd is not a sign that one is a servant of God. You must not let their levels of fame intimidate you and make you feel unqualified to stand for the truth in love.
Rebuke is right judgement.
In the context of this article, to rebuke means to pass the right judgement, it doesn’t mean to judge wrongly. Whenever false teachers and teachings are rebuked, people say we’re judging others, they say it is God who will judge His servants and they also quote Matthew 7:1-5 which says we should not judge so that we don’t get judged. But let’s understand what Jesus meant. Jesus never called off discernment and examination of what other people are doing, Jesus wasn’t actually referring to us becoming silent towards false teachings. In fact, that verse was addressed to religious folks who live in hypocrisy.
Few moments from that verse, Jesus was already telling us that we can judge with the right judgement. He said in verse 16
“By their fruit, you will recognize them [that is, by their contrived doctrine and self-focus]. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?”
We can determine false prophets by their fruits and Jesus called them all manner of names like dogs, pigs and wolves in sheep clothing! To identify them, Jesus said in John 7:24
“Do not judge by appearance [superficially and arrogantly], but judge fairly and righteously.”
Do you see that? Judgement isn’t the big issue, we are rather to judge righteously. False teachers are not weak Christians, they are dubious agents who propagate self rather than Christ! To rebuke them is to judge them fairly. We shouldn’t defend them because they are not our brothers, they are our enemies. They are not serving God, they are serving self.
3. RAISE SOUND BELIEVERS
Paul continued in Titus 1:15-16 saying
“To the pure, all things are pure; but to the corrupt and unbelieving, nothing is pure; both their mind and their conscience are corrupted. They profess to know God [to recognize and be acquainted with Him], but by their actions, they deny and disown Him. They are detestable and disobedient and worthless for good work of any kind.”
One problem we have with so many Christian communities is that Christians aren’t encouraged to know God for themselves, they are made to depend so much on their Pastor for everything. They are made to take every decision with Pastor’s consent and they are robbed off that wonderful fellowship they should share with the Holy Spirit. When a believer depends on his pastor for everything, that believer is not sound. Jesus never died to get us into another bondage but to free us from religion!
To biggest way to prevent false teachers from advancing with speed especially towards the elect is by coming to the knowledge of what the true gospel is and teaching it to others without reserve. A believer shouldn’t need a Pastor to be able to refute false teachers and their teachings. The gospel is supposed to be common knowledge of which every believer can at some point tell the difference between the truth and the lies.
It is this gospel that purifies us and keeps our mind pure! When we come to this knowledge, we can quickly recognise what is not right and we can discern without too many questions. One thing the gospel does is that it keeps our gaze on Jesus and not to any man! It also produces good fruits in us, making us live like Jesus. We know sound believers when:
Their loyalty is to Jesus
You must have heard statements like “you can’t be loyal to God if you are not loyal to the man.” But I think it’s the other way round. Many people made huge mistakes in life and fell into error because of who they were loyal to. When people were becoming competitive about their loyalty to either Apollos or Paul, Paul rebuked them because their loyalty wasn’t supposed to be on anyone but Christ! Paul 1 Corinthians 3:4-7
“For when one of you says, “I am [a disciple] of Paul,” and another, “I am [a disciple] of Apollos,” are you not [proving yourselves unchanged, just] ordinary people? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Just servants through whom you believed [in Christ], even as the Lord appointed to each his task. I planted, Apollos watered, but God [all the while] was causing the growth. So neither is the one who plants nor the one who waters anything, but [only] God who causes the growth.”
When our loyalty is ultimately on God, it is easier to drift away from the errors of those we are following on the earth. We don’t just follow elders, we follow them when they follow Christ. Does this in any way encourage any kind of disloyalty in Church? No, the point is, whenever we find ourselves on the crossroads to choose between following a Pastor and Christ, then we maintain our course with Christ.
Their hunger is to grow in knowledge
People who are ignorant of the word will always be tossed around by every wind of doctrine. Concerning this, Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:14
“So that we are no longer children [spiritually immature], tossed back and forth [like ships on a stormy sea] and carried about by every wind of [shifting] doctrine, by the cunning and trickery of [unscrupulous] men, by the deceitful scheming of people ready to do anything [for personal profit].”
False teachers only take advantage of people’s ignorance but when a believer is sound, he or she isn’t prone to such deceits anymore. Peter, in his closing remark, wrote in 2 Peter 3:17-18
“Therefore, [let me warn you] beloved, knowing these things beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men [who distort doctrine] and fall from your own steadfastness [of mind, knowledge, truth, and faith], but grow [spiritually mature] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory (honour, majesty, splendour), both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
It is the responsibility of every believer to be on their guard because the moment they lose it, false teachers are always ready to sweep them off their feet! Peter calls them unprincipled men who are prone to error! We can grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and that is all we need! We were never asked to pursue miracles, we were never asked to pursue breakthroughs, we were never asked to pursue all manner of things but we were asked to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ! This is because growing in the knowledge settles a lot of things
It explains God to us and helps us relate to God as who He is.It helps us understand our personal role on earth.It explains what Jesus has done and who we have become.It empowers us to extend this beautiful gospel to others both in winning them and training them.
It helps us understand our personal role on earth.It explains what Jesus has done and who we have become.It empowers us to extend this beautiful gospel to others both in winning them and training them.
Everything we ever need as believers are wrapped up in the word of God and the more we know, the more we live it out. Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:1
“Blessed and worthy of praise be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.”
Everything God has to give us has been given to us, we don’t get them by looking for miracles, we get them by discovering them in the word of God. Paul wasn’t talking to those who already knew what all of these blessings were, that was why he prayed to say in Ephesians 1:17-19
“[I always pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may grant you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation [that gives you a deep and personal and intimate insight] into the true knowledge of Him [for we know the Father through the Son]. And [I pray] that the eyes of your heart [the very center and core of your being] may be enlightened [flooded with light by the Holy Spirit], so that you will know and cherish the hope [the divine guarantee, the confident expectation] to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints (God’s people), and [so that you will begin to know] what the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His [active, spiritual] power is in us who believe. These are in accordance with the work ng of His mighty strength”
This should be the heart desire of every believer and this way, we can know that even as false teachers appear with all manner of doctrines and style of deceits, we are strongly rooted in Christ and cannot be shaken.
*All Bible quotations taken from The Amplified Bible
Many times, God gives us a go-ahead order to do something but we get so scared to take a step simply because we don’t trust Him enough. Some people trust that God can heal their headache but can’t heal their toothache, some trust that God can give them daily bread but cannot give them more than what they have worked for. Many people hear God but they don’t just trust completely and this is because they are looking at natural circumstances, they are considering the facts and figures, they are looking at the doctor’s report, they are looking at the rate of human failure! So, they end up feeling “well, God loves me but maybe this is God’s way of teaching me something.” It’s true that God can use any situation for the benefit of those who love Him but many times people accept failure as God’s way of dealing with them or teaching them something simply because it is the most convenient thing to think at that moment.
God is not pleased when we don’t trust Him completely. He isn’t pleased when we have a thousand and one excuses as to why His words will not be fulfilled. It is a natural thing for humans to always point to their inadequacies. When God came walking in the garden, Adam was running from Him and when God spoke to Adam, the first thing Adam pointed at was his inadequacies. He said to God “I heard you but I was afraid because I am naked.” (Genesis 2:10) When God told Abraham that they will have children, Sarah laughed pointing at her old age! It’s always being natural for man to point at his shortcomings or reasons why God’s word may not be fulfilled and this way we limit God’s power from flowing through us.
Many of us have excuses as to why we can’t do what God has laid on our hearts to do. Many will point to their bad character, Moses pointed at his inability to communicate fluently, Peter pointed at his unworthiness to be with Jesus. Whenever we let those fears and shortcomings become an obstacle to God’s call upon our lives, we may lose out in what God wants to achieve with us. Fear is the major reason people don’t take steps that God had laid in their hearts to take. Some won’t enter the city God asked them to enter because all they see are Giants! Some won’t do the business God asked them to do because all they see are people entering that business and failing! Some won’t even remain in a relationship because they either feel unworthy or scared while it is God’s arrangement for them.
When you let fear take you out of the course God has set your life on, someone else who has dealt with fear will take that place. When you let fear deter you from doing that business that was laid in your heart, someone else will take up your place. There isn’t any vacant position that will remain vacant simply because you were too scared to fill it. Someone else will apply for a job you were scared to apply for, someone else will embark on that project you are scared to embark on, someone else will discover that product that only you had the formula if you let fear stop you from doing something. There is no position meant for you perpetually, someone else can be there! In God’s agenda, everybody is replaceable and many times He gives to the unwise unusual wisdom to take the place of a supposed wise man. God will not pause His purpose in wait for a man to respond. He is patient, He is merciful and will always give a second chance in other forms but He won’t bank on you when you let fear or excuses keep you from doing His will. He will give you many chances but if you insist on letting fear thrive, you’ll lose out!
When God decided that Moses will only see the promised land with His two eyes but never enter it, it never stopped God’s plan for the Israelites. As Moses was closing eyes in death, God had a Joshua already prepared to carry on with His Agenda and as Joshua was leaving, God had other people! He had both men and women in line! We see the story of Deborah who was a prophet and a judge in Israel (Judges 4:4-24) God gave her a word for Barak, son of Abinoam from the city of Kedesh in Naphtali. It wasn’t a gist, it wasn’t an option, it came as a command! The command was “Take 10,000 men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them to Mount Tabor. I will bring Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, to fight against you at the River Kishon”. The command came with an assurance that said: “Although Jabin will have his chariots and soldiers, I will give you victory over him.”
Well, Barak received these words of God from God’s servant, Deborah but Barak didn’t trust completely in those words. No doubt, he knew it was God who spoke to him through Deborah but he was looking at the circumstances, he was looking at the facts and figures, he was making his own estimations, analysing the situation and trying to come up with a forensic report. Whenever we start to check the possibilities of God’s word to come to pass, we are letting fear thrive. Barack was calculating the number of armies under Jabin and he must have felt “I am not too anointed to do this myself.” He said to Deborah “I will go if you go with me, but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” He was scared to go alone but God’s instructions to him were not to go with Deborah, he was supposed to lean on the promises of God for victory but he was scared and he couldn’t take the word of God for what it is. Deborah said to him “Since it is your choice, I’ll go with you and you won’t be responsible for the victory because God will hand Sisera over to a woman.”
Many times we read these places so fast that we don’t see the message. With fear and for not taking God’s word for what it is, God handed the responsibility of victory over to someone else who wasn’t even trained to be in the army. In other words, Deborah was saying “God has shifted the responsibility to someone else.” Barak didn’t believe he would be victorious without Deborah, God wanted him to trust his word and his word alone but Barak amplified his fears, making the choice to forfeit the role God had destined him to play.
So many times, we have given up on responsibilities that God committed to us simply because we are afraid, we have allowed the news report, doctors report or certain analysis to rob us the trust we have in God. Is God asking you to do anything? Are you having a nudge in your spirit to start up something and you are scared? Are scared to take a step of greatness just because you don’t know the outcome? If you let fear stop you, someone will defeat that fear and get to that place you refused to get to, someone will build that vision you refused to give attention and you’ll be relegated to the background by your fears.
Barak fought with his armies but he couldn’t kill Sisera, you are only considered victorious when you fight the commander in Chief and win! Sisera died in the hands of Jael who may have been considered physically weak, untrained and without experience. Yet, this woman became what Barak couldn’t be because she had a heart that defied her physical weaknesses and fears!
The pictures came alive, replaying in my head and hauling me into the scene. That juncture that Jesus, in all his power, awesomeness and glory allowed himself to be put to shame, allowed himself to be beaten, mocked and treated like a common criminal. I pictured myself in that scene, I saw myself standing at a corner, watching as he dragged the cross along, scratching off clouds of dust with the end of the long bar of the cross from the ground and stumbling at some steps.
I peeked as the soldiers beat what we call “the hell” out of him. They made jest of Jesus each time he cried out. Then, I turned to look at the Jews, I saw them becoming happy for once with the Roman soldiers, for the cause of getting Jesus out of the way. I saw friends and enemies form a coalition. These Jews were presumed to be friends of God, Jesus was supposed to be their hero! I watched as they were being fascinated with what Jesus was going through.
But then I shuddered in tears, knowing that the very reason Jesus was going through this is me. He was not dying his death, he was dying my death. He wasn’t suffering his suffering, he was suffering my suffering. He was doing everything possible to satisfy the demands of a law that passed the sentence on me even before I was born. In those tears, I could feel his stares, his eyes were red, blood running down through a corner. I watched him look at me saying “it is all for you…”
He wasn’t making an accusation, he wasn’t holding me responsible for his death, he was speaking in a tone that confirms it was the path he had chose to follow in his human manifestation. It was his desire to ignore his divinity and be in my shoes. They couldn’t give him a break, I saw how terrible my sins were, they were as terrible as his sufferings. God’s anger on sin was satisfied with him. It is safer to say that God satisfied his anger for sin on Himself. This was God, choosing to walk like man, choosing to bear the consequences on a flesh he had worn.
He was pushed down and he hit his head on the rock, it was this same head on which crown of thorns has been worn upon. The thorns pierced into him even harder, I heard him shout! I couldn’t behold the sight anymore, I was broken. I threw my face away and then I was hearing hits! At each hit, I would hear him shout in agony. I turned to look, the nails we’re being pierced into his hands and his feet. All this was just for me, the cross was my mine, the suffering was mine but he took it over from me.
After the cross has been raised, I managed to look up and stare at him with misty eyes. Many things happened, was it about the sour drink he was fed with? Was it the mockery? I heard him pray “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do”. That was an everlasting demand for forgiveness, it was a once and for all demand. I felt strongly that he was saying “I have taken their place and your anger is satisfied by now”.
The teariest moment came when it was apparent that heaven had turned back on him. God turned back on him, put it this way, he turned his back on himself! This was the same man who had healed the sick, who raised the dead, he opened the eyes of the blind, who healed all manner of diseases! This is the same man who has been nailed helplessly to the cross, he had become a sight of mockery. That was supposed to be me, I deserved nothing but that cross…
He cried a cry that was supposed to be mine, he said “Father, why has thou forsaken me?” I fell on my knees, knowing this was supposed to be me, I was supposed to be the one who has been forsaken. Here, God fulfilled the promise he made, he had said earlier “I will remember your sins no more” Why? Because Jesus would take them upon himself. Confirming my thoughts, Jesus said, “it is finished”. The struggle, the wrestle with sin and all the failures were over! The war ended! Afterwards, he gave up and died on that cross, carrying the burden of every man on earth and bringing it to an end.
On numerous occurrences, I break down in tears reminiscing God’s love and mercy. Anyone who doesn’t know God may find this funny or strange. I am the only one who can tell with limited words that I have experienced God, I have seen His mercy and the feeling leaves me only in tears, it makes me recount my steps and know if I have been living a life of appreciation towards that sacrifice Jesus made.
How about those nights God would come to me in dreams as a child, carrying me on his laps and telling me things with smiles all over his face! It might be just a dream to you, but it means a lot to me now. How about that morning when I was woken by a voice, I knew it was him and he gave me an instruction. What about the days his powers had surged through my hands? Experience isn’t enough but I have experienced him to an extent I can’t doubt him any more. When people call us jokers, I only realize their extent of ignorance, I don’t blame them.
God looked beyond me, he looked beyond my flaws and said: “I will be your God and your father, you will be a son”. That was what I became! Jesus died, but Jesus resurrected. His resurrection is another story, exciting experience that resources may not permit me to talk about at this very moment. But I know one thing, by death, he destroyed the powers of sin over me, rendered it useless and declared me holy and free from sin!
If it is by that same word by which the world was made that I was declared righteous, then I am righteous. If he said I am free, then I am free indeed.
Listening to Yadah’s “Beyond Me” keeps bringing back this feeling, it keeps stirring my heart and leaving me with tears upon tears. Only I can tell how God has dealt with me in love. One may ask “but you don’t have money yet. You don’t have your heart desires yet…” No, it’s not about what men can give, it’s about what only God could give. It’s not a fulfilment that money can give, it is not a fulfilment my heart desires can give me. Nothing else can fill this vacuum that only God can fill. I can’t trade it for anything.
The joy of salvation is not something I can source from anywhere else, it is not something I can get from eating certain kinds of food, having certain kind of friends, going certain kind of places or attaining certain heights on earth. It is so beautiful knowing that I am a friend and the son of God, knowing that God’s love and mercy have made a dwelling in me. God didn’t give me a second chance to make things right between us, he made it right and asked me to accept it. He gave me no terms and condition, he gave me no further rules, he didn’t increase the burden. All he wanted was that I accept his offering and I did.