Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus

A while ago, I read a post put up by a bitter feminist agnostic, titled “Why I left Christianity.” I took my time to read it carefully because most “deconversion” stories provide clues into how people reject what they never had a proper understanding of. Like Gilbert Chesterton said: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Of course, it was filled with what I had expected: “An elder in my church cheated on his wife many times; a pastor in my church abandoned his indisposed children and wife. I saw many things as a child,” and some other regular rhetoric of how bad Christians are (and apparently how morally superior she and her comrades are).

All her arguments are a desperate claw at reason. Her reasons for rejecting Christianity are as strong as a limp noodle. But one fact stood out: her gaze was not (and probably never) on Jesus Christ. I say this because I have walked that path before, and it leads nowhere.

In September 2011, when I decided to quit a craving that had enslaved me, I joined a Christian recovery program on Facebook. It was a group made up of largely men and women from African American backgrounds, with similar pasts seeking healing and victory over defiling habits. We share our experiences, struggles and pain and received prayers, encouragement, Biblical instruction and accountability.

I made many friends in the group, but things weren’t as rosy after some months. I began to see the ugly reality of the sin nature rearing its head in the group: hypocrisy, arrogance, deceit, hasty condemnations, strife, manipulation, intrusion of privacy and of course, some members were not there to recover; they were there to sneak people out through the backdoor back into their old ways of sin.

My zeal waned, and since online piety can be feigned and counterfeited (in fact, anybody can be anything they want to be on social media), I began to flirt with my old pattern of living and fell flat again. I was ashamed and I felt like a failure. To make it worse, when I confided in a brother from the group, he just snubbed me as if I had online leprosy. He never spoke to me again because I sinned (I chuckle now when I reflect on that).

All the encouragement others tried to give me didn’t allay my sadness, shame and guilt. I slid into depression for weeks and lost the will to live. I decided to stop fighting. “Let me just flow with this and stop swimming,” I said to myself. And soon, the sadness went away and my heart became hardened against living the Christian life. I left the group and severed my ties with all of these Christians.

It would take a couple of years before the Lord in His glorious mercy drew me again to Himself and helped me walk in victory. That is just one of the bad experiences I’ve had.

In retrospect, I can see why I fell. I was looking up to (sinful) people; I was trusting in a formula; I was fixing my gaze on myself and my abilities, but I wasn’t looking at the Lord Jesus. I feel in my spirit that some of my readers are in this shoe. You’ve trusted in your leaders and they’ve shipwrecked your faith. You’ve trusted in a religious institution, but it has led you astray.

You’ve trusted in a rite or a format and it has left you in the gutter. You’re still being defeated by that unclean habit (hard drugs, sex, porn, vile affections, theft, occult snares, name it). There’s a piece of the puzzle you may have missed:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).

In Greek, the word “archegon” (author) means founder or leader and “teleioten” (perfecter) means a completer and finisher. Jesus has the power to rescue you and complete your faith. He sits before the throne of God to intercede for us. No human or religious intercession can match that of Jesus Christ. Only He has the power to completely deliver you.

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always live to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Many people miss this crucial step. They rush to the next prophet, the next deliverance minister, the next group therapy, the next retreat centre, the next “mercy land,” but they have never surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ and directly ask Him to deliver them completely. They have never sought Jesus to cleanse them, remould them and fill them with power to live as children of God.

No, I’m not against seeking counseling, instruction and prayer ministry. But first things have to come first. We are to be “rooted and built up in him [Christ], strengthened in the faith” (Col. 2:7). That’s the key of a strong Christian life. A house that is not built on the rock cannot withstand the wind, storms and flood of life.

Your ability to stand in spite of how others fail you is directly proportional to how deep you are in Christ. The deeper your root in Christ, the more your branches extend and the stronger you become. Many of what we struggle with linger because we have not consecrated our lives to Christ and fervently seek to serve Him with all of our lives.

We are all in a race. Your church leader cannot run your race for you. Neither your friends. Don’t let the floundering of people in the church divert you from the glory ahead. Follow Jesus personally with all your heart and He will work in your life.

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Word Faith Teachings and Mind Science Cults

Recently, while discussing with some friends on Facebook about the Word-Faith movement, I realised that the varying doctrines and nuanced terminologies found within the WOF can sway even sincere Christians to innocently embrace their heretical teachings and techniques.

Unravelling this aberrational hoodwink requires an exploration of the origin of such false teachings. Once their roots are exposed, you can easily discern when a teaching or practice has crossed the lines of Christian orthodoxy and is skating on the thin ice of cults and the occult.

First, let’s remind ourselves of what the Bible says about God and faith, because these are key areas through which WOF peddlers smuggle their load of errors through the back door.

  • God

The God of the Bible is “the Living God who made the heaven, and earth, and the sea and all things therein” (Acts 14:15). Not only that, He has a present interest and an active hand in the affairs of men:

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” (2 Chr. 16:9).

“This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites” (Josh. 3:10)

“…For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and saves; he performs wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (Dan. 6:26-27).

Since God is the Creator of the universe, He’s not the universe and He is not subject to the laws of the universe. This is called “the Infinity of God.”

“The infinity of God is that perfection of God by which He is free from all limitations. In ascribing it to God we deny that there are or can be any limitations to the divine Being. It implies that He is in no way limited by the universe, by this time-space, or confined to the universe” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1958, 59

The Bible also shows us that God is sovereign. He has absolute authority over all His creatures and upholds all things by His almighty power. God – not man – has absolute rule. He shapes the whole present history of the world and all things are dependent on Him and subservient to Him:

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes” (Deut. 10:17)

“With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please” (Jer. 27:5).

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns’” (Rev. 19:6).

  • Faith

Faith generally means having an unhesitating assurance of the truth of God’s testimony, even when it is unsupported by any other evidence. Hebrews 11:1 describes it as: “the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (Amplified).

Faith rests on the unseen because it rests upon the foundation of God’s Word. Noah was “warned about things not yet seen” so by faith he responded in obedience. Abraham went forth in obedience to the land of inheritance without having seen it. Sarah was enabled to conceive Isaac without having seen him. Joseph didn’t see the exodus of the Israelites, but it happened as he believed (Heb. 11:7, 8, 22).

All these happened because they took God at His Word; they believed that God is willing and has “power to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:21). Biblical faith acknowledges that God knows what is best for us. (Job. 42:1-6; Matt. 26:39; Rom. 8:26; 2Cor. 12:7-10).

True faith necessitates believing in God and His Word (e.g. 2 Chr. 20:20); therefore, God doesn’t need to have faith in Himself to do anything. To assert that God “used the force of faith by speaking faith-filled words to create the universe” presupposes that there is a ‘higher God’ he rested his faith on. Wrong. God created everything by and through His own omnipotence. He is infinite and there is no being higher than Him.

Having this understanding, when we pray in faith, we let God be God and trust in His wisdom and goodness. Even though God can do all things, we recognize that He reserves the right to determine the terms and timing by which we will receive what we ask (Rom. 11:33-36).

Faith is not an impersonal force that can be harnessed to create a new reality. The right faith is a willingness to believe what God had said (2 Cor. 12:7-10; Phil. 4: 10-13). True faith is not hinged on an idea; an institution; an image; a feeling or a ritual. It is based on God, His Word, Jesus Christ and His finished work.

The earliest preachers to introduce Word-Faith ideas of faith being a “force” were Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947) and Essek Kenyon (1867-1948). Due to scant documented evidence of Wigglesworth’s power and exploits, it has been stated that much of the tales and claims attributed to him were mythical (see Gerard Fisher, The Quarterly Journal, January-March 1995, pp. 1, 11-14).

Essek Kenyon absorbed many of the religious ideas of his day, including strains of metaphysical thought and mind science which birthed WOF teachings. This leads us to briefly explore mind science religions.

New Thought, Mind Science and New Age

The 19th century wasn’t just an era of industrial revolution; it was also an era of religious revolution. In the middle of that century, Western society was entering a new and scientific era, where reason, experimentation, and observable results were becoming the standard means of measuring progress and assessing truth claims.

In a bid to sustain the social mechanics of that time, some people attempted to create a dubious mix of science and religion which gave rise to metaphysics or mind science cults. After being influenced by Phineas Quimby, an occultist and founder of New Thought philosophy, Mary Eddy Baker founded the Christian Science religion.

She taught that Jesus was a scientist who applied dynamic laws of the mind which govern the universe to heal people. She also taught that sin, sickness or death were illusions of the mind which can be dispelled with scientific faith or positive thinking.

Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, who founded Unity School of Christianity in 1889, taught the same in Dynamics for Living: “God cannot create without law. God is the Mind force carrying forward creation under law… Whatever Mind commands to be brought forth will be brought forth by and through the law of evolution inherent in Being.

Ernest Holmes of the Church of Religious Science also taught that: “Science of Mind teaches that Man controls the course of his life…by mental processes which function according to a Universal Law.”

These were the concepts that emerged later as the New Age philosophies. John Randolph Price in his book The Superbeings says: “Like attracts like.What you think in your mind will produce in your experience. … All the Power of the Universe is within you and this Power you can have anything on earth you desire.” (The Superbeings John R. Price Quartus foundation, 1981, xv).

Though some of these mind science cults deceitfully use Christian terminologies, they have given them different meanings to suit their own beliefs:

  1. They don’t believe in a personal God who directly, sovereignly governs the universe as Christians believe, but in an impersonal god (called “the Force,” “the Infinite Power” or “the Spirit of Infinite Life”) who rules the universe indirectly through immutable laws.
  2. They believe man is the one in control of all that happens to him. Since their god is like energy, he holds no one morally accountable: he only exists to give man what he wants. So, man needs to control his situations or the world with his mind.

With positive thinking, he can activate the god energy for his own good. This idea is seen in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, where he quoted a poem saying: “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my own fate, I am the captain of my soul” (p. 86).

Napoleon Hill admitted he got his teachings from “9 invisible counselors” he met through intense visualization:

I can truthful say that I owe entirely to my ‘Invisible Counselors full credit for such ideas, facts or knowledge as I received through ‘inspiration’…” (Think and Grow Rich, p. 86). Who were these “invisible counselors?” They were demons.

These mind science occult beliefs came into church in the 20th century mainly through three key figures:

(a) Robert Schuller who had gleaned much of his “possibility thinking” ideas from Napoleon Hill (who admitted being inspired by demons). In one of his tapes, Schuller said: “You don’t know what power you have within you! …You can make the world into anything you choose” (Possibility Thinking – Goals)

(b) Norman Vincent Peale, a 33 degree Mason who taught that: “God is energy. As you breathe God in, as you visualize His energy, you will be reenergized! (PLUS: The Magazine of Positive Thinking, 37:4, May 1986, 11).

In 1984, on the Phil Donahue program, Peale said, “It’s not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God; I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine … I’ve been to Shinto shrines, and God is everywhere:”

Shocked, Phil Donahue responded, “But you’re a Christian minister; you’re supposed to tell me that Christ is the way and the truth and the life, aren’t you?” Peale replied, “Christ is one of the ways. God is everywhere.” (Christian News May 12, 1997, 11).

(c) Agnes Sanford, an Episcopal mystic healer who taught visualization and Jungian psychology. She reiterated mind science ideas: “The same principle is true of the creative energy of God. The whole universe is full of it, but only the amount of it that flows through our own beings will work for us” (The Healing Light, p. 1)

Strands of mind science concepts were adopted by Word Faith preachers and couched with different terms like “the laws of faith”, “the laws of the fourth dimension” or “the laws of miracles.” Though the terminologies differ, the concept is the same.

Yonggi Cho wrote: “You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth … He is bound by your lips and your mouth … through intense visualization and dreaming, you can incubate your faith and hatch results … Sokagakkai [a Buddhist sect] has applied the law of the fourth dimension and has performed miracles…” (The Fourth Dimension, 64, 83)

Frederick Price: “You are in control! … God cannot do anything on earth unless we…give Him permission through prayer” (The Word Study Bible, 1178)

Sam Adeyemi: “This world is governed by laws. God invested tremendous energy in this world; energy which He put within the bounds of certain laws. When you satisfy the conditions of those laws, you generate tremendous force in your life to get things done” (Success is Who You Are, 2008, 25-26).

Kenneth Copeland: “Any image that you get down on the inside of you that is so vivid when you close your eyes you see it, it’ll come to pass. When God came at the Tower of Babel, He said, ‘Anything they can imagine, they can do.’“ (Copeland, Inner Image of the Covenant, side 2)

Myles Monroe: “Prayer is man giving God permission or license to interfere in earth’s affairs… God could do nothing on earth… nothing has God ever done on earth without a human giving him access. [So he is] always looking for a human to give Him power permission. In other words, God has the power, but you get the permission. God got the authority and the power, but you’ve got the license. So even though God can do anything, He can only do what you permit Him to do” (This is Your Day with Benny Hinn, 2004)

These mind science beliefs relegate God and exalt man. The idea that there is a universal law or “faith force” which Christians and non-Christians can tap into and use to experience miracles or achieve success is not a Bible teaching. True miracles are not governed by laws – they override all laws. We receive from God by faith, not by applying man-made laws.

A study of the Bible shows that there is no fixed technique, ritual, formula nor “laws” that can be used to force the true God to work miracles or answer our prayers. We must all be very careful of what we glean from some preachers or books.

The devil knows Christians would never listen to the ravings of a shaman in his regalia, holding up his cult corpus and waving his rattle. We won’t even allow him get past our church doors. But if a shaman shows up in a three-piece suit, has degrees under his belt, carries a big bible and mouths off the same cultic ideas, this time, laced with familiar Christian clichés, many Christians will fall flat into his deceptive teachings.