Several years ago, I was invited to a breakfast prayer meeting by a friend. He also invited a guest minister of the gospel; who is presently an Anglican Priest of a Diocese in Enugu State, to share the Word of God. Before sharing his brief message, the guest minister did something which I will never forget as long as I live. He brought a hen and put it on a table in front of him. As expected, the hen started struggling to escape and was making a lot of noise in the process. The minister used his two hands and pressed the hen down on the table. Surprisingly, after struggling for about three minutes, the hen became quiet, even as it continued to be held down for another seven minutes; making a total of about ten minutes. To our utter amazement, when he eventually released his hands off the hen, rather than run or fly away, it quietly remained in the same position and made no move to escape. For the rest of his sermon, which lasted about 30 minutes, the hen remained in the same position of subjugation and intimidation. At the end of his sermon, he simply lifted the hen quietly and put it back into the cage without any struggle or resistance. He then urged us to try the same thing when we got home and assured us that the result would always be the same. I never bothered to try it. One live experience proved the point.
The situation of the hen described above, captures the state of several in the Church today, particularly in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole. For generations, our fore-fathers were held captive by demon spirits masquerading as gods. They dazzled and intimidated our fore-bearers with their limited powers and put fear thoroughly into them. With the advent of Christianity, which revealed to us the knowledge of the one true God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, several of us are still intimidated like that hen, long after the source of our bondage had been removed. There are several Christians today, who dread to travel to their villages and who must always visit the pastor for special prayers’ before venturing near their villages due to entrenched fear of the forces of darkness, including witches and wizards.
Jesus Christ, the master deliverer, said, “….if ye continue in my Word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31,32). Verse 32 of that eight chapter – ‘and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free’, is the motto of the Anglican Communion worldwide. The Anglican Communion has 4 insignia on its logo: the compass rose, which shows that it is universal /worldwide in spread; the Mitre, which shows that it is episcopal ( led by Bishops); the cross of St. George, which refers to its origin in England and the motto, which consists of John 8:32 written in the Greek language. Therefore if any Christian can afford to be ignorant, it certainly should not be an Anglican. But sadly, so many Christians today including Anglicans, are running from pillar to post seeking questionable ‘deliverances’ rather than believe the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ; which alone guarantees true and lasting deliverance.
Let us consider just two verses of scripture, which when meditated upon are enough to assure every child of God that Jesus Christ perfected our eternal deliverance. All we need to do is to abide in Him and renew our minds by believing what God; who cannot lie, has said in His Word concerning us.
1.) “Giving thanks unto the Father, which HATH made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who HATH delivered us from the power of darkness and HATH translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: In whom we have redemption through His blood even the forgiveness of sins”…..(Col. 1:12-14). Please note the emphasis on the tense “HATH”, signifying that God is not about to do it but has already done it. More than 2,000 years ago, He did it at the cross of Calvary in Jesus Christ, who became sin that we may become the righteousness of God in Him (Christ). Therefore, the moment any one accepts the Lordship of Jesus Christ, he or she is translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. But like that hen, the person may not realize that a change has taken place and may remain in a subjugated position looking for who will yet deliver him or her from ancestral curses, satanic affliction, oppression by witches and wizards, etc. No wonder God said, “therefore my people are gone into captivity because they have no knowledge”…..( Isaiah 5:13)
The truth of the word of God is that ‘if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, ALL things are become new’……( II Cor. 5:17). In Christ, our spirit is regenerated (made new) and we are grafted into His body; the Church, which represents a new lineage - the lineage of the last Adam, who came from heaven as distinct from the first Adam, who was of the earth (I Cor.15:47-49). Our citizenship also changes at the new birth and we become citizens of heaven, while yet here on earth (Phil. 3:20).
The teaching ministry of the Church is therefore extremely important, as it gives us an understanding of the basis and implication of our beliefs. This explains why the Church Mission Society (CMS) who brought the gospel to us laid a lot of emphasis on catechism classes, during which converts were made to understand the basis for the Christian belief from the Bible. Today, catechism classes have been abandoned by several churches and parishioners, citing one excuse or the other. The result is that many who have been baptized and confirmed, do not understand the basis for their Christian beliefs and the teachings of the Church. Rites and sacraments of the church are now being taken as mere ceremonies, without an understanding of what they truly mean.
It is therefore time to go back to the teaching ministry of the Church. As powerful as Jesus was, He could perform no major miracles in Nazareth (Mark 6:5,6 ). He therefore resorted to teaching the people so that their faith could be built up. There are many ‘unbelieving believers’ today, masquerading under a false air of spirituality punctured by ignorance. True spirituality which is consistent with eternal life lies in the knowledge of God. “This is life eternal, that they may KNOW thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”….( John 17:3). How can someone who does not believe the simple Word of God claim to know God? That can only happen in the land of the blind and ignorant, where the proverb one-eyed person masquerades as king. But as followers of Christ, we are not expected to walk in darkness because we have the true light. A fundamental step to knowing God is to know that His Word must be believed. That was the same thing that Jesus told the Jews who were very keen to do the works of God. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent”. The first and elementary step in Christianity is to believe the person and Word of God regardless of what we see, feel or think. This is why in our creeds every Sunday, we start by saying, “ I believe in God…”. If therefore God, who we claim to believe, has said in His Word that we have been delivered in Christ Jesus, then we should believe Him. “ If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed!” Alleluia!! (John 8:36)
2.) “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:”…..( Eph. 2: 4-6). The Bible further explains where we are seated together in Christ Jesus: “ …..according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, FAR ABOVE ALL principalities, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also that which is to come; and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all”( Eph. 1: 19 – 23).
Note the following from the passage:
a) The Church is the body of Christ and is seated with Christ in heavenly places. This is the spiritual position of the Church NOW and not when we get to heaven.
b) Because the Church is in Christ, she is therefore also seated FAR above all principalities, powers etc.
c) The least member of the Church; just baptized NOW, is quickened at new birth, raised with Christ and seated in the Church ( Christ s body) FAR above all the powers of the devil and his cohorts
d) This truth aligns with the charge of Jesus to His own after His resurrection: “ All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” ( Matt. 28:18-20).
e) Therefore the moment a person is born of God, he/she is grafted into the body of Christ - the Church, having been translated from the kingdom/clutches of the evil one to the kingdom of light where s/he is vested with the righteous of Jesus Christ as a free gift. The grafting into Christ is preceded by a change of ownership, that is, purchase by the blood of Jesus Christ (redemption). Redemption is followed by regeneration (making new) by the Holy Spirit and receiving the nature and life of God (Zoe), which is the only form in which we can be grafted into Christ. This process constitutes salvation, that is, being delivered from the devil and the sin nature and becoming a child of God.
The salvation which was wrought for us by Jesus Christ on Calvary was thorough, complete and perfect. We enter into that salvation by accepting the Lordship of Christ and aligning with His substitutionary death for us on Calvary. This is the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ which sets men free. It is a simple gospel, which should not be complicated by the philosophies of men. As many as believed on Him, He gave power to become sons of God.
Our Salvation in Christ is a total package, which includes deliverance from the devil, sin, sickness, poverty, failures, bareness, etc. The more we know Christ and grow in His knowledge, the more we are able to access all the benefits (grace) that go along with our salvation…..’ Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord, according as His divine power HATH given unto us all things that pertain to live and godliness, though the knowledge of Him that hath called us unto glory and virtue ( II Pet. 1: 2,3)
Therefore a major reason why many Christians struggle needlessly and are unable to receive the full benefits that go with their salvation is because of the lack of knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is this state of self-inflicted frustration caused by ignorance, that some self- appointed ‘deliverance ministers’ capitalize upon to teach that fresh deliverance is needed, indirectly inferring that the work of Christ on the cross was not perfect. Yet the Bible is clear that God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness in Jesus Christ. He is not about to give it, but has already done so, hence the use of the term ‘ HATH’ in II Peter 1: 2. It is now our responsibility to thirst after Christ and to know Him. As we do so, we mature in the process and our privileges and inheritances in Him are released to us. No matter how much you love your 5 year old child, you would not handover your car keys to him to drive the car, though he is your heir and the car belongs to him. But as the child matures and becomes an adult, then you will be confident to hand him over the same car keys. In the same way, we mature as we interact with and get to know Jesus and His Word daily.
Beloved, it is time to truly desire to know Christ more and more each day. Enough of being an ignorant and un-informed Christian, tossed here and there by doctrines of men. It is time to become as the Berean Christians (Acts 17: 10,11) who studied to know for themselves. It is time to search the scriptures and to thirst after Jesus as the early church did. Hear the Apostle Paul, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death”…( Phil. 3:10)
Therefore, stand firm in the liberty which Christ has won for you (Gal. 5:1), through faith in His unfailing Word, which has proclaimed you to be more than a conqueror (Rom. 8:37). Maintain your abode in Christ, the true Vine. Whether you feel like a conqueror at present or not, is not the point and can never change the Word of God.
As you make a quality decision today to stand firm and immovable on the word of God; desiring to know Him more each day and to please Him, I see a new dawn come upon you! May that new dawn cause you to soar to new heights in God; attain new levels of exploits; experience new doors of opportunities, and take new territories for our God and King; to whom alone be glory and majesty, now and forever. Amen.
The Revd. Dr. Nduka Iwuchukwu.
Priest, Diocese of Lagos West, is presently attached to St. Nicholas Cathedral, Anglican Diocese of Victoria Nyanza, Tanzania. (firstname.lastname@example.org)