(Being the exceprts of a speech delivered on 12 October 2016, by me, to me, in my room, on the occasion of a near-permanent fit of spiritual “highness”.)
First, I want to thank @lenoraself and the 102 others who have followed my blog. I am most grateful.
I want to quote two really awesome portions of scripture to start with, and I hope you can clear your schedule for about 30 minutes or less. It will be well worth it, by God’s grace.
Galatians 4:10-12 (NLT)
You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. I fear for you… Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles – free from those laws
Jude 3 and 4 (NLT)
Dear friends…I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their wayinto your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives…
In one early morning (late afternoon for her) chat with my friend Moyo Balogun, we concluded that false teachers of the Word never come in the belief or knowledge that they are false. No. They come with scripture. They come with revelation. And they come with signs and wonders even. It most probably will never be their intention to teach that which is false, but then it just comes out as that. To me, what makes a teaching false is when it fails to produce the result the Father intended. That is all.
I place the burden upon myself to ensure that when I open my mouth (or blog) to teach, I do so with the utmost conviction that no one can falter in the way of salvation by the words I speak (or type). I realise that because I know many will listen (or read) and many will hang on to your words, for that is how God planned it. I want my words to build up the church, and spur people on to greater things.
There is a great divide in the Church. Many seem oblivious to it, but it is there. It is a divide I have been on both sides of. And all of this is the manner of interpretation of the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is the side of those who teach, knowingly or unknowingly, that the Grace is not enough and that we must do things to complement it. And there is the other side that says that our work has been completed by Jesus, therefore nothing more is required of us.
Goodness me, I must lay this out there first. I give no respect to anyone who is not subject to the authority of the Word of God. I give no respect to anyone who does not submit to pastoral counsel. And I give no respect to the teacher who fails in designing His teachings well. James 3 verse 1 is my real guide in that light,if you know what I mean.
In the Word, we create designs that are attractive out of fabric. In the Word, the teacher tailors the design to attract people to the fabric. If you get it, you get it. I cannot dwell on this.
I have read the Bible. I am still reading it. In this life time, I cannot exhaust its wealth of revelations. I cannot. What I have learnt so far is that the depth you think you have attained is nothing but shallow waters. I remember one time I received a revelation on the true beauty of humility and I was all over the moon. It was like I just discovered gold and I wanted to hoard it, you know, so I could drop wisdom nuggets among my fellowship members. Look at me. The next day I walked up to my friend’s bookshop at the Chapel of Christ, UNILAG, before service began and saw a book by Andrew Murray. The title was “Humility: The Beauty of Holiness“. I bought it and started reading. When I finished it, I was deflated. The revelation that got me all shaky and all had come to someone many years before. And the book had more than enough to teach me. I learned humility that day.
What am I saying?
God has truly blessed some people and has given them the opportunity to receive revelations. The mistake they make often is that they simply run off with what they have and dont try to understand what God’s purpose is in revealing that to them,or why. They tell me, no need because we have the unction of the Holy Spirit and we have no need of a teacher and we can understand this ourselves and so on. Bleh*. And you yourself want to teach others right? Real bleh.
Paul in the beginning did not consort with anyone because he received his revelation from Jesus Christ, live transmission. No one taught him shingbain*. (Galatians 1:15-23). Then in the second chapter of Galatians, he said after 14 years, he went up to Jerusalem because God revealed to him to go there. He met privately with leaders of the church. Why? Verse 2: “… I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing“. The big Paul himself. Again, if you get it, you get it.
I grew up as a Methodist. Then we did not know what grace was. We knew Jesus Christ died and rose and because of that, we all attended church services on Sundays. That was pretty much about it. Every Sunday, our Reverends taught us how to dress and how to eat and what music to listen to and how to sing and how to do pretty much everything. The idea was, if you were out of line, hell straight. No time. If you were in line, God would like you and give you everything. Yipee!
You bet I tried to stay in line. You bet I did not stay in line often. I soon got tired of the whole charade and I just tried to be a good buy who was not doing bad stuff. Or who was not doing too many bad stuff, I guess. In the University, 300 Level was a different ball game. I had racked up the worst set of results in my personal history. I was in a fellowship, an executive member, and I had a girlfriend I used to kiss and press her breasts in isolated places at the Engineering faculty (sue me, please). I think in my head, I just believed this could not be life. I wanted a change and no one was offering it.
Only Jesus. And the first directive I felt in my mind was to pick up my Bible and read it. It is the most consistent directive I have ever felt in my heart. In a matter of months things had changed. Girlfriend had left me for a taller, darker guy. Fellowship made more sense and I was really trying my best. I became President of my fellowship months later.
We got this message that time, and many of us got stuck in what I call the Euphoria of the New Creation. Nothing could be better. Christ had done it all, and we were free. Yaay! Believe me, it was only a matter of time before we began to follow people who told us that no sin we ever commit after giving our lives to Christ could stop us from entering. Just make sure you tell Him sorry after, and be remorseful.
Ehn! Much enjoyment. I can be remorseful, can’t I? I took my liberty in both hands, and lived my life. The atrocities of my life before Christ have nothing on my atrocities after I claimed to have received Christ.
But I digress. Let me try to make this succint. I am writing because I fear the effect of the new teachings we are getting today.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians provides perhaps the best analysis of living life in the grace of God apart from the law. One must understand that people were beginning to try to return the Galatians to the system of following the patterns of the Mosaic law, circumcision especially. Paul’s letter was to correct them and tell them that their (and our) salvation was not earned but freely given. He was appalled that after receiving liberty from the many codes of conduct and the many laws on cleansing and washings and sacrifices, they were immediately willing to “ratify” their salvation by returning to these codes. Inessence, they were trying to continue grace and favour by returning to what grace already abolished. He extensively explained the work of the law before grace and the essence of the grace we have now received. It was concluded that the works of the law do not in any way bring or increase grace.
But he does not stop there. And this part is important for you to read, please. Verily so, because I read an article a few days ago, one in a long line like that. The writer’s position is that (1) we ought to know that no manner of sin we commit can stop us from eternal life. Although the writer goes on to say that (2) no one who understands grace will see it as the liberty to sin, nothing in the entire article points out how grace is not a call to sin. The reverse seemed to be the case. And I say seemed because I do not believe he would intentionally want people to sin because of grace. In fact, he did not say “sin, grace covers you”. However, the manner of writing had that written all over it. For me, that is.
With me, the above view has raised two concerns in my mind. First, there is no single place where a direct statement like that is made by any of the Apostles. Or any other wrier in the Bible for that matter. My fear is the effect of such a statement on anyone. With my experience, I see that as an invitation to treat, as a way to eat my cake and still have it in my hands. It was an invitation I accepted in the early days when I did not know better. And I think that statement is destructive, misleading and extremely not helpful to any Christian. In fact, the second question in my mind was prompted because I thought I would see something directive on the purpose of grace in that article. I did not. How can you lay it out that anyone who understands grace will not see it as a license to sin, yet your entire article can be headlined as: “Sin is not a hinderance to eternal life“? I mean, I very well understand the angle such teachers come from, but I totally warn against unguarded statements simply because we want to make a point or drive home that point. These are people’s eternity we are toying with.
Look at Paul, a preacher of God’s grace like no other. He is very direct in ensuring we know the nitty-gritty of grace. But He does not stop there. Even in Galatians, supposedly to quell the “workaholics”, He did not fail to direct us in the real manner and truth of this freedom. See, freedom is a delicate issue, a subtle gift, easily perverted and often squandered, according to Eugene Peterson*. I can categorically tell you that not in any writing by Paul (or any other Apostle for that matter), words of Grace are well laid out so that you see not only the bare elements of it, but the general nature of its usage; its purpose. In fact, Paul is quick to point out what he means and what he does not mean by preaching Grace, laying examples well. He arrests the situation, so that no one will miss the purpose. He does not do half now, the rest whenever.
And he goes further. Always further, beyond the grace or no grace or law talk. He goes further to what is really important in the end. In Galatians 5 verse 6, He states the important thing: faith expressing itself in love. Of course, much later I will deal with this subject.
In verses 13 and 14 of the same chapter, he says
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But do not use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself”.
Perhaps even more important to quote is what follows, from verse 16. Let me attempt a summary. Paul points to the fact that we still have a sinful nature, and there is no doubt about that, though we have the Holy Spirit. These sinful nature within us is at war with the Holy Spirit, and both have opposng desires. Paul could have comfortably said we could sin and still be in this race with a shout. No, he went higher and showed us the real, true picture:
First, to abandon the law of Moses is to pick up the Spirit of God, and vice-versa. Second, when we make that choice, we must constantly choose to be led by the Holy Spirit. He will not drag us. You ultimately choose what desires to satisfy: your flesh or the Spirit. Pay careful attention to the results of a lifestyle of following the sin nature in verses 19 – 21. And Paul says, without mincing words:
Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God
Please, again, if you get it, you get it.
In picking up the Holy Spirit in exchange for the law which we have dropped, we, by faith, await the reception of the righteousness God has promised us (Galatians 5:5) after receiving an imputed righteousness becauseof Jesus’ sacrifice. Following the Spirit’s desires is how we receive this imparted righteousness, made manifest by the fruits of the Spirit we all have crammed in our heads, in Galatians 5:22. This is indeed the true abolition of the law, that we live free of sinful desires and only in accordance with the desires the Spirit puts in us. See Galatians 5:23!!!
If you claim to belong to Jesus Christ, Galatians 4:24 tells us that what marks you as a true follower of Jesus Christ is the nailing of your sinful passions and desires on the cross of Jesus. You are boasting in the power of the cross, that it has saved you from your sin, not merely that it has saved you in theory so you can avoid a practical life against sin. And verse 25? Let us follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in every part of our lives. Shikena*.
Let me be clear. If you receive any good news that in any way, tacitly or impliedly, or expressly, or in any subtle way gives you any hint that you are okay in your sinfulness despite your claiming to be a Christian, FLEE!!! It is ungood news. Let nothing like that get into your head.
We are justified freely by faith. Yes. But have you read Galatians 6:7? The one that says to not be deceived? That the justice of God is not mocked? That whatsoever you sow you will reap? Do you know what verses 8 and 9 say immediately?
Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
Pastor Paul, good teacher. He did not leave his students in the lurch. Imagine if the book of Galatians ended in Chapter 3 or 4. They would have been in a dilemma, what to do with the grace, since we are not supposed to follow the law anymore. He told them who they were now, a new creation created to do good works, just like he told us through the Ephesians. A good teacher of the Word will spur his people on to walk circumspect in the grace they have received. That is a purposeful teaching of the grace of God. Purpose, because when the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is inevitable.
For me, Christ came to save me from sin. He live a life of exemplary conduct for me, and I am admonished to continue in this walk, looking up to Him as a role model. And you know why that does not encourage sin? Jesus was without sin, and it was the clear difference. That is what I should pursue as a person, a life in the Spirit of God.
Teachers, you hold the key to the glorification of the people you speak or write to. Hold yourself to higher standards.It is not enough to receive revelation. Your revelation is first a call to draw you, personally, close to God, in search for more. There is always more. If you take up revelation and just run blindly, without purpose, you are like a trailer on the highway, without brakes, a danger to yourself and countless others.
Sometimes the motivation to preach Grace in manners like this is because of the many teachers who place their members under yokes and commands and laws. These teachers have blinded many people into believing their actions and inactions determine the favour of God towards them. One time in my life, I made it my duty to counter this way of teaching, vocally. I was bitter and angry and cast them down at every turn. At the same time, God began to teach me how proud I was becoming and how conceited I had become. He showed me how my arguments were merely to showcase how much (yet so little) I thought I knew. He showed me how I had stagnated in the euphoria of the new creation, wasting my time while other revelations were waiting to be discovered. And perhaps most alarming was the revelation of how complacent I had become with sin in my life. I had more than entertained it; I had harboured it. Thank God He taught me. He then showed how some may never even come to know Christ if these teachers were not there. So many can only be reached by those low-level and beneath basic teachings.
See, there is a purpose for these things. If you are hurt by what you see in churches, default setting is not to begin to lash out and showcase your “talent”. Pray. Pray. Pray. Let God be the one directing, not you creating the opportunity.
We have grace, and God loves us. We know that. He loves us despite our many faults. We know that. We know that in this race of the Christian, if we fall into sin, our brothers ought to help us out. In fact, John writes in 1 John 2 verse 1 that if anyone sins, Christ will plead our case before the Father. Yes, it is true.
But let us not forget what the purpose of the Word and of Grace is. Let us not forget that Christ Himself invites us to pick up His yoke, not to look at His yoke and say “ah, Jesus you tried for me”.
The same verse above tells us in plain terms the real reason for the Word of God (right after introducing Jesus as the Word). My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin.
John further admonishes us in 1 John to live in the depths of our teachings, to stay with Christ and live deeply in Him. Failure to do this will leave us ashamed when He returns in glory, because we will not conform to HIm; because we failed to transform in accordance with the leadings of the Spirit. Further, Chapter 3 states:
Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in Him. Anyone who continues to live in Him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who He is. Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: when people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keepon sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil who has been sinning from the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family count it a great privilege, and they do not make a practice of sin, because they know and understant that God’s life is what they now carry. Because of that understanding, they cannotkeep on sinning, because they are children of God. Now it is easy to tell the difference the children of God apart from the children of the devil. Any person that does not live a righteous life and does not love other believers does not belong to God! (1 John 3:4-10 paraphrased. Emphasis, mine).
Again, if you get it, then you get it. Read the Bible sometime. In fact, read 1 John today! It is short. Suspend your Jenifa’s Diaries tonight and just read it. And than you Billy for making me read 1 John again.
I am tired. I understand why many feel they must say our sin does not hinder us and bla bla… Trust me I do. But see what being stuck has brought us. Many are stuck in following rules and codes (not the law of love mind you) and they are there. Others that know grace are stuck in the new creation mentality, teaching things directly or indirectly that cause people to become lacklustre and lukewarm in their pursuit of God. In fact, their concentration on that becomes destructive pride. When you are lukewarm, you only look warm. You are downright not hot and very ineffective for purpose. Francis Chan siad, and I (attempt to) quote:
Lukewarm people do not desire to be saved from their sin. They only want to be saved from the penalty of their sins.
I cannot agree more.
What then is the difference between the “law” teacher and the “grace-and-forever-saved” teacher. Nothing essentially. The former tells his people they must do certain things in certain ways in order to gain the favour of God. The latter says we do not need to do anything anymore because nothing we fail to do can take us out of the favour of God. The former mistakes legalism for discipline. The latter mistakes discipline for legalism. The former does not believe the full salvation power of Grace; a grave sin. The latter does not believe or countenance the power of grace to save us from a life of following sinful desires, but rather sees grace as the ability to continue in sin while escaping the penalty of sin, another grave sin.
Both fall short of the true glory of our God. Greatly.
Teachers must build the Church up into the unity of faith. Faith, expressed in love, should be our goal. And all of the law is really the love of God. Like Jesus said, all the commandments are brought into two: Love God, and love your neighbour. If you analyse the ten commandments you will see that dual code in it: duties to God and duties to man. Breaking love is breaking faith and it is breaking the commandments of God.
You cannot therefore assert that we can sin and still inherit God, just blatantly like that. Haba! What you are saying in essence is that we can break love, and still inherit God. I mean, and God is love. So if we break the commandments, we break love, and if we break love, we break God. Then I kee doing that with the belief that He loves me and is all over me. Let us have some respect please. If you do that to your father, you will certainly be in danger of some very clean slaps. How much more God?
I can go on but…
As teachers, we must spur people on towards good deeds. If we, even in the most subtle and unintended manner (and I say this boldly) mute the fact that people can sin and still inherit eternal life, I personally refuse to comment on the validity of that assertion (let the Bible be read please), but I tell you that you are running Mission:Counterproductive.
Rather, as a teacher, be guided by Hebrews 4, especially the opening verse. Grace is Jesus, yes. And Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He said that Himself, and immediately after He said that, He continues that no one comes to the Father except through Him. If your teaching of Grace and of Jesus does not lead people to focus on the Father and desire the Father, please. Reconsider. If not for your sake, at least for the sake of the people who will make decisions because of what you will teach. Biko.
I am tired, and amala has just arrived. Let the Word of God be your conviction, not even this long thing I have written here.