To eat Meats, or not?

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One of the roots of religious delusion is evidenced by people who are bound under strict laws that stipulate what they can or cannot eat.

These dietary rules are believed to make them more approved before God and contribute to their spiritual elevation or whatever marker of spiritual enlightenment they subscribe to.

A look at various religious systems bears this out. In Judaism, there are kosher dietary laws which adherents are expected to keep.

Drawing from its Judaistic influence, Islam also adheres to certain dietary laws that prohibit eating pork, lobster and clams.

In Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism and Jainism, dietary laws are taken a notch higher by the prohibition of all meats. Animals are believed to have souls and are to be venerated.

The New Age spirituality, which is the fountain head of the current reverence for the earth and environmentalism, believes animal meats contain harmful “vibrations” which should be avoided by seekers or adepts.

Some professing Christians also adhere to the dietary laws of the Mosaic laws. Seventh Day Adventists, for instance, under the instruction of their prophetess Ellen White, are taught that:

If we subsist largely upon the flesh of dead animals, we shall partake of their nature.” – Testimonies for the Church 2:61.

“Its use excites the animal propensities to increased activity, and strengthens the animal passions. When the animal propensities are increased, the intellectual and moral powers are decreased. The use of the flesh of animals … benumbs the fine sensibilities of the mind.”– Testimonies for the Church 2:63.

“Among those who are waiting for the coming of the Lord, meat eating will eventually be done away: flesh will cease to form a part of their diet.” — Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 380.

Even though it’s documented that Ellen White broke her own rules and ate meat on some occasions, it’s clear that within the sect, these dietary laws are presented as keys to moral purity, intellectual dexterity and salvation.

There are also some Hebrew Roots and Sacred Name adherents who observe these dietary laws.

Some of these religious groups produce medical books warning people against eating any kind of meat. But these “findings” have underlying religious undertones and are propounded because they validate their presuppositions.

This issue needs to be addressed because even within some Christian denominations, many people are still indirectly placed under a dietary yoke of bondage.

I have attended two well-known Nigerian Pentecostal churches where a preacher and a guest speaker demanded that Christians revert to the dietary laws of the OT if they want to experience physical and spiritual wellness.

It’s one thing for a Bible teacher to teach his/her opinions, it’s another thing for him/her to equate those opinions to a divine order.

You may not personally like certain foods, that’s okay, but you don’t have to make it a stumbling block for other believers.

For instance, let’s say, Pastor A doesn’t like eating apples because he has allergies whenever he does. It’s fine if he says to his congregation, “I don’t like apples because they affect me negatively when I eat them.”

But when pastor A now stands on his pulpit on a Sunday morning and says:

“As I was praying and studying my Bible last night, God gave me a special revelation about apples. As a child of God, you must avoid that fruit because it was the fruit that Satan gave Eve to eat and Eve gave Adam and ultimately caused the downfall of the entire human race. It defiles the body and soul. It deadens the intellect.  If you want to be closer to God and enjoy His deeper love and fellowship with holy angels, then stop eating apples!”

These remarks would not only be a form of pastoral manipulation and control, it would also be an attempt to lead people into the bondage of legalism.

Notably, Pastor A has taken several dangerous steps:

1. He has projected his personal tastes onto everyone. That is, if he’s allergic to apples, then everyone else must be allergic to them as well.

2. He has equated his personal preference to collective preference. If he dislikes apples everyone else must do so too.

3. He has elevated his personal preferences to divine mandates. Whatever he loathes must also be what God also loathes. Technically, God is reduced to his rubber stamp who must endorse whatever resonates with his personal desires.

4. He has masked his true intentions by using a fraudulent revelation as an ecclesiastical cement on his personal tastes.

This is the progression of many legalistic doctrines in many churches today – with the exception of those that are directly taught by demons to their mouthpieces to uphold their existing pacts.

Now, if you replaced the “apples” in my analogy with “meat” and certain natural things that some church leaders urge their members to avoid, the twisted syllogism fits. This is an Athenian development of false doctrines.

First of all, what does the Bible teaches about being a vegetarian? Is it wrong to eat meat?

In Genesis 3:18b, after the fall of man, God instructed Adam, “And you shall eat the plants of the field.”

At that time, man was condemned to exhausting manual labour in order to make a living. Indeed, Adam was to work before the Fall, but when God cursed the ground at the Fall, there was a clause attached:

“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground” (Gen. 3:19). Taking verse 18 without the surrounding context of the preceding and proceeding verses is flawed exegesis.

Now, in six chapters later, we see that God expressly gave man permission to eat animals: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants” (Gen. 9:3).

In the same book of Genesis, we read that the Lord and His angels visited Abraham and Sarah. Abraham prepared the best that he had and it consisted of beef:

“And Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it” (Gen. 18:7).

If meat were harmful, then why did Abraham give it to the Lord to eat?

Even in the temple offerings, God instructed the Levites to eat the lean meat of cow, sheep and goat but burn their fats in the fire:

“You shall sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shall burn their fat as an offering by fire…but their flesh shall be yours…” (Num. 18:17-18).

If killing animals and eating their meat was sinful, then God commanded the Levites to regularly sin by eating the meat of animals that had been killed, and this went on for centuries.

It’s also instructive to also note that the menu the Lord personally prepared for Elijah before he faced the prophet of Baal consisted of meat:

“And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook” (1 Kgs. 17:6).

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul instructs Timothy and classifies abstinence from meat along with the teachings of forced celibacy as lies taught by deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons:

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose conscience are seared, who forbid marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:1-3).

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you must also accept His truth:

“Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on? (This he declared all foods clean). And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man” (Mark 7:18-20).

It’s not that roasted pork or cooked okro or smoked grasscutter meat which goes into your tummy that defiles your soul. It is what comes out of your heart. This is what the Lord Jesus taught.

If you reject the truth of Jesus Christ, then you can’t be said to be a follower of Christ. If you take Moses over against Christ, then you are far from Biblical Christianity – the way of grace and truth. For it is written:

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

The dietary laws (Lev. 11:41-44; 20:25; Deut. 14:3-20) for the Jews were very strictly adhered to by even the apostles. But on the cross of Calvary, God broke down the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14-18).

The dietary laws were put aside along with the ceremonial/temple laws. Therefore, we can partake of meat without any prohibitions.

The only restriction observed is in some instances of meats offered to idols which Paul said he would rather avoid if it will cause fellow Christians to stumble (see 1 Cor. 8:13).

Just as we have it today, some people in the early church were also teaching that Christians ought to merge the laws of Moses with the grace offered in Christ in order to be saved and have a “deeper” Christianity. As a result, many Christians reverted to the old laws and customs of Judaism. This led to the meeting (or “council”) of the Apostles at Jerusalem.

From there, only four dictates from the Mosaic laws were binding on Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians:

(a) They were to abstain from the pollution of idols.
(b) They were to eschew sexual immorality.
(c) They were not to shed blood.
(d) Avoid eating strangled animals or animals with blood in it.

It says nothing about avoiding unclean animals, circumcision, keeping the Sabbath, using the Hebrew names of God/Jesus and some other finicky rules that many have dubiously piled on the heads of their followers to allegedly merit God’s approval.

Paul’s charge to Timothy bears this out once again:

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4-5).

The New Testament makes it clear that Gentile Christians are not bound by the Mosaic dietary laws. There is no animal that God created that is “unclean” to us – whether it’s a pig, oyster, shellfish, horse or snail. Don’t let anyone hold you captive under any religious teaching that says otherwise.

Let “no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath” (Col. 2:16).

A clear ignorance of this principle has unwittingly opened up the lives of many Christians to the influence of seducing spirits that reinforce these rules in their lives and rob them of their God-given spiritual freedom.

If any plant or animal is safe to eat, we are free to eat it. This, of course, doesn’t mean that there are no moral restrictions on eating.

We are not to be gluttons, for example, and cannibalism is prohibited, but there are no “unclean” animals today.

The vision Peter had concerning all kinds of animals also reveals the will of God allowing man to eat meat:

“Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ ‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’ The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean’” (Acts 10:13-15).

Though God’s point was that Peter was not to consider Gentiles “unclean,” He also made it clear that eating the “unclean” meats was permitted.

Christian salvation and sanctification is by the grace of God. It’s impossible to somehow, by our own works, convince God to love or accept us anymore than He already does.

Holiness is not defined altogether by what we abstain from. It’s defined by our heart attitude toward Jesus and our desire to follow Him.

What it means to be “Born of Water and the Spirit”

Some have taught that being born of water means baptism (implying baptismal regeneration) and some others have interpreted it as physical birth. To find out, we need to take a look at the entire teaching of the New Testament.

John 3:3, 5 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again … Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”

If this text alone implied that baptism was a key prerequisite to entering the Kingdom of God, then Jesus would have made it a requirement of salvation, but this is not so.

Now, if baptism is not the New Birth, to what does the word “water” in John 3:5 refer? Let us look elsewhere and see what are the agents and instruments by which the work of regeneration is wrought:

1 Peter 1:23 “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”

James 1:18 “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

1 Corinthians 4:15 “Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”

Titus 3:5 “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

In these passages we see that regeneration or rebirth is wrought by the word of God and Spirit of God. We are born again by the Word of God and the Spirit of God.

Now in John 3:5, we have the Spirit directly mentioned but can the “water” be taken to mean “the word” without forcing the language? First, let’s compare it to Ephesians 5:25, 26:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”

Indeed, the Greek word translated “word” here in Ephesians (rēmati) is a different word from the Greek word translated “word” (logos) when the Word of God is spoken of. But in 1 Pet. 1:25 (“… And this is the word that was preached to you”), the same rēmati that is translated “word” in Eph. 5:26, is used twice of “the Word of God,” and that, too, is direct connection with regeneration by the Word.

In John 15:3, Jesus said: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” See also John 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

But some may ask why did not Jesus say plainly, without a figure in John 3: “Except a man be born of the word and the Spirit”? The answer to this is very simple.

The whole passage is highly figurative. The word translated “the Spirit” (Pneuma) is itself figurative: means literally “wind” and is without the definite article.

Literally translated the passage would read, “Except any one be born out of water and wind.” In this, the wind symbolizes the vivifying element, the Holy Spirit. (Compare Ezekiel 37:9, 10.) Naturally, therefore, “the water” symbolizes the cleansing element, the “word.” (Compare John 15:3).

The passage thus reduced to non-figurative language would read, “Except any man be born of the word of God and the Spirit of God.” Thus we would have Jesus teaching the doctrine afterwards taught by Paul and James and Peter.

Can Christians need Deliverance? (I)

The field of deliverance ministration is one in which many saints have laboured for ages. Today, there are many helpful materials on the subject and it’s not my intention to add to them.

In fact, I wasn’t particularly interested in wading into such an extensive area until a dear friend of mine recently brought up a question on the subject and I couldn’t provide an answer without delving into it. His question was: Can a Christian be infested with demons?

Now, before I give my answer, I need to emphasize that I have read from both sides of the fence – those who argue that a Christian cannot be inhabited by a demon and those who argue otherwise.

So, my answer to the question is not based on denominational indoctrination, but from personal study, experience, interactions with other believers and logical deduction.

I was raised in a church which maintained that once you are born again, you have been automatically delivered from every demonic connection from your past. We believed deliverance ministration was only for witches, satanists, weirdos and tormented sex fiends.

But as the years went by, as I began to critically examine my own life – as well as that of others in church – I didn’t see the “peace and joy” that we often talked about.

The people assured us that they were walking in victory on every side; that they were blessed above measure; that the devil was a babbling fool writhing underneath their feet, but right before my very eyes, I could see that these ecclesiastical idioms were just words they rehashed; their lives belied their gnomic claims.

I also observed strange things (which I later discovered to be demonic activities) operating in our lives. We were not really enjoying the things we claimed to have.

But I didn’t want that. I wanted a realistic Christianity; one in which my life spoke louder than my words, and it was while searching for this better way that I realized that I was myself under demonic oppression!

Since my church had failed to enlighten us about demonic oppression or how to deal with it, I had unknowingly allowed demonic bondage persist in my life for several years through denial and loose living.

I was blinded to my own true spiritual state because the extent of the light entering our eyes determines how and what we will see. The extent of the spiritual truth you know will determine how far you will discern. We all see within the limits of our horizons.

Today, this church in question, now accepts the reality that even spirit-filled Christians can also need deliverance. But they were too late in admitting it.

Many sincere folks had left the church in frustration when they couldn’t find solutions to their problems. Many fervent pastors who knew about deliverance also left when they realized their ministry found no acceptance within the church.

Most of those in the “a-Christian-cannot-have-demon” camp are sadly casualties of an all-too-academic war; a war that is usually waged by ivory tower theologians who would not know a demon from a hole in the ground.

Whenever I come across preachers or authors who argue that a Christian cannot need deliverance ministration, I always want to assess their backgrounds, their level of experience in ministry, their knowledge of cultural nuances, their denominational positions and of course, their degree of dogmatism.

These are key factors that often shape most people’s acceptance and/or interpretations of spiritual realities.

I have observed that many missionaries who have worked with people from diverse cultures usually have a good understanding of spiritual warfare, deliverance and the operation of the Holy Spirit than many “sit-tight-in-church” clergymen with theological degrees under their belts, who are daily ensconced in one cool room in a high brow part of the city.

Aside that, you can’t have a vibrant ministry that leads people out of the cults, occult, drugs and sexual perversion and tenaciously argue against the reality of deliverance for believers. Unless, you are wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Granted, as Africans, sometimes when you read books written by some American or European Christian authors, you feel a sense of disconnect because of the differences in our cultural backgrounds.

The depth and scope of prayer ministration that a believer from a multi-generational pagan/occult background would need will not be the same as one from a multi-generational Christian family.

So, when an African or Asian Christian parrots the “anti-deliverance” arguments gleaned from a preacher who thinks the whole world revolves around America or Europe, it amounts to self-harming disservice. I would take the words of a man with experience above the one with an opinion any day.

First, let’s examine some basic facts about this issue:

(1) The Bible shows that deliverance is God’s provision for His people:

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psa. 34:17)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18).

It’s instructive to note that the Greek word for salvation, soteria, or sozo which is translated “to save” is used in a variety of ways in the New Testament that go beyond the forgiveness of sins.

It is used in many cases of people being physically healed (Matt. 9:21-22; 14:36; Mk. 5:23, 28). It is also used of a person being delivered from demons (Luke 8:36) and of a dead person being brought back to life (Luke 8:50). The same Greek verb is also used to describe God’s ongoing preservation and protection from evil (2 Timothy 4:18).

Therefore, salvation should not be limited to the experience of having one’s sins forgiven and being born again – and many Christians have sadly done this. Salvation is the key to abundance, healing, success, blessing and deliverance, which some have dubiously omitted from the package.

2. Deliverance is an arm of the ministry of Jesus Christ which the church must pay attention to.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18).

As Jesus and the disciples preached the gospel and the people believed, they were healed of their sicknesses and freed from demonic oppression (Matt. 10:1, 8; 12:24, 43; Mark 1:26; 1:39; 3:15; 6:13; Luke 4:36; 8:29; 9:49, 11:18;13:32 etc.).

These signs go hand-in-hand with the preaching of the Gospel and no preacher or theologian has any right whatsoever to set any of them aside.

It must also be noted that Jesus called deliverance from demonic bondage “the children’s bread” (Mark 7:27). The Greek woman had to put her faith in Christ to receive this privilege on her daughter’s behalf; it was (and is) a benefit for only God’s people.

If you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour, deliverance from all forms of captivity is your “bread”; your spiritual right.

Furthermore, the people from whom Jesus expelled demons in the Gospels were all Jews, under the Covenant of Moses. They could be viewed analogously to Christians in the New Testament under the New Covenant.

The apostles might have been an exception to this because Jesus directly cleansed them: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

3. A common objection frequently raised is, “Jesus didn’t ask the disciples to cast out demons from one another.”

If we apply this argument to the signs Jesus listed in Mark 16:17, then we should also say that Jesus never asked the disciples to minister the baptism of the Holy Spirit to other believers, neither did He say we should lay our hands on other believers to be healed.

Besides, the term ‘disciple’ has to be properly defined. It means a follower of Christ. And there were many disciples – before and after Pentecost – who were set free from the influence of demonic powers by the power of Christ (Luke 8:2; Acts 8:7; 19:12).

The premise behind the “Jesus-didn’t-expel-demons-from-the-disciples” argument is that once you are born again, you will never be physically sick again; you will never sin again, and of course, you wouldn’t need to be prayed for to be freed from spiritual bondage!

That’s more of Word-Faith mental cotton candy which flies in the face of reality and sound Bible exegesis.

4. Some Christians object to deliverance ministration by citing Colossians 1:14 and Ephesians 2:6 which say Christians have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and are now seated with Christ in heavenly places. “This is what became our possession when we became born again! We were absolutely delivered!” they argue. The answer to this is yes – and no.

There are two sides to this issue: the legal and the experiential. The answer will differ according to which side we view it from. Let me explain.

Legally, we were delivered from the kingdom of darkness and became heirs of God when we were born again. But experientially, we must appropriate in faith, step by step, all the benefits of redemption that are already ours by legal right through our faith in Christ. This is not automatic.

In John 1:12-13, the apostle says concerning those who have been born again through receiving Jesus, that God has given them “the right to become children of God.” The Greek word translated “right” is exousia, usually translated “authority.”

That’s what a person actually receives at the new birth: authority to become a child of God.

Now, the believer must exercise that God-given authority to experience the actual results of the new birth. This is what deliverance entails: using your God-given authority to completely sever all the links you had with the kingdom of darkness.

Since the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan are in total opposition to one another, you cannot enjoy the full rights and benefits of a citizen in God’s kingdom until you have finally and forever severed all connections with Satan and totally cancelled any claim he may have against you.

Take a look at the example of the children of Israel. God spoke to Joshua on how they were to take possession of their inheritance: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses” (Joshua 1:3).

Note the perfect tense: “I have given [the land].” Legally, the land of Canaan had become the inheritance of the children of Israel, but experientially, nothing had changed. The Canaanite nations and all their giants were still living there.

So the task before Joshua and his people was to move from the legal to the experiential. That’s also the task before us today. The children of Israel were to go to battle – one step at a time – and destroy the illegal occupants until they recovered their inheritance.

Actually, they fought a long series of battles against the various inhabitants of the promised land before they could posses it. Even after much warfare, God still says to Joshua: “There remains very much land yet to be possessed” (Josh. 13:1).

If Joshua had been like some Christians today, he would have led the Israelites to stand before the Canaanite nations, thumb down their noses and fold their hands saying, “Well, God has given your lands over to us. Now it’s our possession! It has been settled and we don’t need to lift a finger to take them.” And the people of Canaan would have laughed at their grandiose claims.

Now, just as Joshua led Israel into the land of promise, Jesus is leading Christians into the land of promises. The legal to experiential appropriation of redemption applies to every area of our Christian life.

Being born again legally delivers you from Satan’s kingdom, but in terms of experience, that’s just the beginning of a long process that requires your actions. You need to still evacuate the strangers nesting in your life and fight to be free. Christianity is not theoretical; it’s very practical.

5. An objection that is often put forth is an appeal to 2 Cor. 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

It is asserted that automatic deliverance from all spiritual captivity takes place the moment we are born again based on this verse.

While I admit that God can sovereignly intervene and completely set a new believer free, those who use this argument either lack a full understanding of the complex, tripartite nature of the human person or do not know what regeneration entails.

Before regeneration, we were dead in our sins and trespasses and separated from the life (Greek: zoe) of God. At salvation, our spirits are “made alive” by indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:5). But our bodies and souls are not born again; they are susceptible to the old ways we lived and the evil spirits we had hosted.

Though our life of sin is legally passed away and we have been made a new being, the responsibility lies on us to use our spiritual authority to bring other areas of our lives completely under the direction of the Spirit of God. This is why self-crucifixion and deliverance are important.

The story of Lazarus in John 11 illustrates this. He had been dead, but Jesus raised Him from the dead and new life entered him. But he still had his grave clothes on. Jesus said: “Loose him and let him go”. He needed others to help him remove those grave clothes so he would be free.

There are many Christians like this; they have been saved for years, they attend church fervently, witness for Christ, know the Bible and even teach it, yet there are spiritual grave clothes wrapped around them, holding them back from complete freedom and enjoying their spiritual birthright.

Though they talk about liberty, they experience spiritual slavery. Though they testify of victories, their personal lives evince defeat. They have the potential to soar high, but their wings have been clipped down. They need to be liberated.