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 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 the teachings of the Higher Life movement as well as mind science concepts which birthed WOF teachings. This leads us to briefly explore mind science religions.

New Thought, Mind Science and the 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 giving 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 cult.

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 concepts that emerged later as New Age philosophies. John Randolph Price in his book The Superbeings says: “Like attracts likeWhat 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 said 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?” Your guess is as good as mine. These mind science occult beliefs came into the church in the 20th century 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 wrote: “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, pp 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, p. 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, pp. 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, July 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 reciting 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 some 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 for his deceptive teachings.

Answers to Seven Questions about God

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Theology literally means “the study of God.” I have observed that the word evokes a negative notion in many African Christians because of the way some preachers have wielded it over the years. The term “theology,” as used in some Christian circles, refers to any schema of philosophy or complex, scholarly information that is beyond the grasp of common people. This is a caricature and it should be discarded.

Learning about God is the starting point of a sound Christian life. There’s no way to go without having a good knowledge of theology in this age of promulgation of false ideas about God (The Shack is a good example) as well as skepticism and atheist propaganda which usually thrive on ignorance and sophistry.

Learning about God doesn’t have to be complex. We can simplify it into questions and answers, most of which I’ve encountered from Christians and non-Christians alike.

Who is God?

Many people believe the best definition of God is found in the Westminster Catechism: “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth” (Art. II).

God is a Spirit means that he has an immaterial nature which is incorporeal nonphysical, and invisible. God doesn’t have a physical body that can be seen. Hence, when some people accuse Christians of worshipping “the white man’s God” or depict Him looking like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings (Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ also comes in handy), they are obviously describing the god of their imagination, not the God revealed in the Bible.

Yes, God is a revelation. He is not a concept emanating out of the Christian’s head. He makes Himself known in the lives of His people today.  That is why those who want to truly know God must seek Him.

The problem is that many people are not seeking God at all; many are not seeking Him in the right way; they have not asked the right questions and are yet to shake away their false expectations and imaginations about God.

Can God be seen?

A Russian cosmonaut once announced from outer space that God didn’t exist because he looked out of his window and didn’t see God. This is a misconception about God, no doubt. Later, an American astronaut read from space the Genesis account of the creation of the world by God. “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). Just because people can’t see God doesn’t mean there is no God.

We don’t see radiation or the wind, but we know they are real because we see their actions and effects. Similarly, God’s “eternal power and deity” can be understood from the things which are made (Rom. 1:20). God doesn’t have physical presence, but the physical world He created bears His fingerprints, proving that He exists.

It’s a universally agreed fact that life can only come from life. Life didn’t spontaneously emerge from some lifeless molecules at the edge of an ancient tidal pool; it came from God, the Source of life. Common sense dictates to us that when we see an intricate, intelligent design, evidently, a Designer made it.

This doesn’t go down well with atheists/skeptics who demand an empirical evidence for God’s existence. They want God to do something compelling that will be seen by everyone, like splitting Mt. Everest into 2 parts and suspending them or shaking the Eiffel Tower, levitating it, moving it 180 degrees and changing it into a huge golden mist in the sky at high noon, with a towering figure saying “I am God! I exist!”

Perhaps then, a congress of 144,000 atheists and agnostics from all over the world will jointly decide on taking some of that golden mist into the laboratory, pass it through an electron spectrometer, and analyse its electron beam for the presence of God. Then the atheists, agnostics and skeptics, satisfied in their irrational, arbitrary and dogmatic demands will acknowledge that God truly exists.

God has placed a natural longing to seek Him in every man, but this has been thwarted by sin. Some people want to see God out of curiosity; others to worship Him and a third group of people want to see God for personal fulfillment.

Did Moses and Israel’s elders see God?

Some have asserted that there is a contradiction between Moses’ request to see God’s glory and being permitted to see the back parts of God (Exodus 33:18-23) and Exodus 24:9, 10 which says “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and they saw the God of Israel” and what Jesus said: “No one has seen God at any time, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made it known” (John 1:18).

There’s no contradiction whatsoever. To illustrate: A man may see the reflection of his face in a mirror. It would be true for the man to say “I saw my face,” and also true to say “I never saw my face.”

So men have seen a manifestation of God, and it is true to say those men saw God. But no man ever saw God as He is in His invisible essence, so it’s perfectly true to say no man has ever seen God at any time.

In the Old Testament, God manifested as “The Angel (Messenger) of the LORD.” A clear distinction is drawn in the Bible in the original languages between ‘An angel of the Lord” and “The angel of the Lord.” This manifestation of God is called theophany. Notably, God has made Himself known in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Why did God create us?

God created us so we could have life (Jn. 10:10). It was an act of love on His part, not of necessity at all. God didn’t create us or the rest of creation because He was lonely or because He needs us. God is self-dependent.

Nevertheless, He created us for His own glory. He speaks of His sons and daughters from the ends of the earth as those “whom I created for my glory” (Isa. 43:7). This fact guarantees that our lives are significant. We are important to God Himself.

Furthermore, he created us for us to fulfill His purpose. As we glorify Him and enjoy Him, Scripture tells us that He rejoices in us. We read, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the birds, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa. 62:5; cf. Zeph. 3:17-18).

Why did God not destroy Satan immediately he rebelled?

The simple answer is: because that is the nature of God. God is just; He is entirely correct and fair in His dealings with humanity and also with spirit beings (angels, Satan and his demons).

The Bible says God is “good and upright” and all His ways “are loving and faithful” (Psa. 25:8, 10). “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deut. 32:4).

God is all-powerful and all-knowing, yet He didn’t destroy Satan because the remaining two-third of the angels that were loyal to God would think that God eliminated Satan because He (God) was afraid that Satan had a legitimate cause.

For example, there are some governments that squelch any criticism from the media and execute anyone who opposes them. But with such responses, they are not only proving that they are weak, but also making the opposition against them legitimate. They don’t want their injustice and evil to become public knowledge.

Another reason is that, if God had destroyed Satan and his followers, it would imply that He wanted to maintain obedience through power and authority only. That would be tyranny which is contrary to God’s love.

Man and angels are free moral agents. They can discern between good and evil, so God didn’t eliminate the opposition to allow man and the angels make a decision on whether to follow God or Satan.

God is Love and love doesn’t coerce, but pleads and woos. This is why God invites all men to choose, love, serve and worship Him willingly from their hearts.

Nevertheless, God in His justice has set a day of judgement for Satan and all who follow him. Their doom has been sealed. At the right time, they will be destroyed, i.e cast into the lake of fire.

Where did God come from?

This is a loaded question. It assumes a limited God; one limited by time, space and matter. That is certainly not the God of the Bible but a god the skeptic/atheist imagines we worship. Our God is not affected by time, space and matter. If He was, then He’s not God. If an infinite God can fit into our 1.4 kg brain, He would not be worth worshipping.

Time, space and matter are what we call a continuum; all of them have to come into existence at the same instant. If there was matter but no space, where would it be put? If there were matter and space, but no time, when will it be put at? So, time, space and matter cannot be independent of one another, they have to come into existence simultaneously.

The Bible answers this in Genesis 1.1: “In the beginning,” that’s time. “God created the heavens,” that’s space, “and the earth,” that’s matter. So there is time – past, present and future; space – height and depth, and matter – solid, liquid and gas. Here’s a trinity of sorts created by the Divine Trinity.

Since God created them, He is outside of them and cannot be limited by them. The one who made the computer is not in the computer. He is not running around within it changing the numbers on its screen.

Similarly, the God who created the universe is outside of it. He is above, beyond, through it and unaffected by it. He’s not subjected to the laws of the universe which require that everything must have a beginning.

Can we totally understand God?

Men cannot totally understand an infinite, omniscient, eternal God. It’s silly for us to think otherwise. While it is rational to believe in God, we know Him through revelation. Most of what we have come to know about God is through revelation rather than philosophy.

Many skeptics fondly wish God to fit into the confines of our finite minds. They want a God that they can wrap up in their sock or capture in their test tubes. They want to have God and everything that happens in this world figured out according to their own reasoning (even though they can’t even logically figure out their own lives). This is hyper-rationalism.

For example, some skeptics question how God who is Spirit could have any impact on the material universe to create it. But they can’t explain where human emotions (love, joy, hate etc.), our desire for purpose and sense of justice, morals and beauty come from. To assert that they emanate from the molecules in our brain is simplistic and ludicrous.

I mean, if your brain is just a random collection of chemicals formed by chance over billions of years, on what grounds then do you trust your reasoning process and the thoughts that you think? There is much humility in admitting that there are some things we can never understand. It is arrogance for man to insist he must understand everything before accepting its reality.

In the final analysis, we worship the eternal, immortal, invisible and only wise God while atheists adhere to what can be called reverse Gnosticism. They reject and disparage the spirit while attributing god-like abilities to matter.

Sources

Elmer Towns, Bible Answers to All Your Questions, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2003.

Reuben Torrey, What Does the Bible Teaches? Whitaker House, Springdale, 1996.

Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology, Moody Press, Chicago, 2008.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Grand Rapids: MI, 1979, “God.”

Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine: Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith, Inter-Varsity Press, England, 1999.

Dave Armstrong, Replies to Atheists and Skeptic Garden Variety Objections