The call to sincere and victorious Christian discipleship in a corrupt society
1.0 INTRODUCTION AND PREAMBLE:
This brief essay is about how we may live as true Christians and authentic disciples of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in spite of the violence, materialism and money mindedness; the corruption in both Church and State and the marginalisation and exclusion of those who are honest; of the preference for mediocrity rather than merit/quality which we see around us. Should we join them if we can’t beat them or should we dare to follow the Jesus of the Old Rugged Cross and return to the old-time biblical faith and life-style while awaiting the Lord’s Return, in a religious but very ungodly society and in Church filled with charlatanism and corruption, folk religion and false spirituality?
1.1 The End Is Near:
From our two essays of last year, (See Appendixes II & III: Cyril Okorocha, June & October 2014), it was indisputably clear that two shocking revelations were coming to us. The messages of the revelations were not entirely new. What appeared new was the fact that we seemed to be blind to the great light that was shining and so dull that our sensitivities seemed either dead or unable to discern the signs of the times. (But there is a deja veux about this thought: See Luke 12:54-56).
On the global level, we were startled to note that the world was virtually being taken by surprise by the sudden arrival of the eschatological moment! The literal “Parousia” is virtually here. In the essay of June, we saw what the apocalyptic preachers of our time, including, alas, leadership of the Church, sated by greed and love of the world, were unable to discern. Biblical prophecy was being fulfilled before our eyes and yet we seemed to be caught napping! Jonah’s Nineveh was recovered and overthrown, its idols and images albeit preserved as “international heritage”, smashed and broken up and its cities burnt with fire. (See Okorocha, June 2014 pp 4-6). We asked the question who is and what is ISIS (or ISIL). Who created the other, Dr. Jerkyl or Mr. Hyde?
That was in the early months of 2014. By the middle of the year, almost one hundred years to the date, the little spark we celebrated as an innocuous drama and daubed “Arab Spring”, soon blew into a global conflagration, which we feared was the beginning of the “Third World War”. But unlike the first and second World Wars, (1914-1918; and 1939-1945), the current war is quite elusive. It has no clear leadership or focus; no clear operational base or target territory. In short, it is war on a mirage which, having kept God out of the equation He puts together, we naively described and still describe as war on terror! Like the illusion it is, this ‘terror’ appears and disappears, and shifts from everywhere to everywhere with no clear focus and no end in view. (See Okorocha, Oct. 2015, pp 1-11, et passim).
Everywhere, the cry is the “end of the world is near”. Indeed, there has never been a time like this since the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, in relation to New Testament Biblical history and prophesy. The whole world seems to shift each day. One startling constant remains. That this epoch in world history seems to represent an almost literal fulfilment of our Lord’s predictions regarding the eschaton, as recorded in Matt. 24 and Mark 13 and in the book of Revelation and as presaged in Daniel Chapters 9-12!
The end seems to have shifted from being near, as predicted by Paul and Peter to being here, judging by current events. (See Okorocha 2015, Appendix I). What then is the Spirit saying? How should we live? How should we survive? And, are these indeed the sign of his coming and the end of the Age?” (Matt. 24:3).
1.2. The End Is Here?
‘Tell us’, asked the bemused disciples of Jesus, who were so carried away by the elusive grandeur and ephemeral beauty and strength of the temple even though the leadership and custodians of the religious status quo, had turned it into a “den of robbers”. Was their Lord not interested in or fascinated by these displays of materialism and mannish glory and wealth? So His priorities were different? At the height of the beauty and glory of the Temple, their religious summum bonom; its destruction was being inundated with such certainty by the Saviour for whom they thought the edifice had been erected:
So they asked with great anxiety and horror:
“When will these things happen?
And what will be the sign:
That it is time for you to come again,
And for this age (dispensation) to end?
The question of when has, today, been overtaken by current global and even cosmic events. When will these things happen? That ‘when’ as we can see is now. “These things” are already taking place! The questions that follow take a more urgent and disturbing form. These things are already happening. Therefore, the two other questions regarding the sign, the unmistakable sign – that which, when it happens, becomes the final bell that we are now on the last lap and will soon hit the tape at the finish line of the race.
All the runners are thus warned and encouraged by their fans to gather whatever energy they have left and push as a matter of life and death, for that tape – it is that final push that will make or mar their success at the race: that is, though, if they “have all along been running according to the rules”! (I Cor. 9:24-27). We are now on the last lap! The question now and the burden of this brief but loud call is: how then do we make this last push? How should we run now? What are the rules and how do we run according to the rules? That is, How should we conduct ourselves? ‘How then should we live?
1.3 How Can You Be So Sure?
Our Lord Jesus, because he was God, could read the minds of his disciples. He noted two deadly errors: First was the deadly error of misconception or misplaced values. This goes back a long way. For example, when Peter had an unusual spiritual experience evidenced in prophetic insight or perception into who Jesus of Nazareth really was, he was tempted to (and some think he did(!)) crown himself not only the undisputed leader and marshal of the league of the inner circle of Jesus’ immediate disciples, but also the unquestionable second in command at the final kingdom! Acts.1:6,7. After all, he alone cracked the puzzle as to who Jesus really was, amidst the plethora of guesses by the wise and the religious leaders and the learned scribes and lawyers of his time. They guessed brilliantly and soberly, but they were all wrong. Yes, people may say all sorts of things about us and even have many ideas about us, but only what God says is what really matters in the final analysis. It is that Word from God which should guide and control our minds and tame our ambitions. Peter had voiced it out loud and clear that Jesus was the Christ. Others knew or had been guessing but lacked the assurance. So they could not make the public confession (See I Peter 3:21 for the true meaning of baptism in relation to genuine faith and sincere confession). It is not mere creedal profession, but an inner conversion which is evidenced in reviewed or transformed values: To be baptised to or in Jesus is to shift from prejudiced collective assumption to personal commitment as a result of a genuine inner existential encounter)
Peter having made the public confession soon got swollen headed! Because of an unusual revelation and public success, leading to an undeniable public divine acclaim. He became ‘presumptuous’! David had prayed for deliverance from ‘presumptuous sin’ (Ps. 51:17) which manifests itself as pride which goes before a fall or more subtly as a ‘haughty’ spirit which is the putative parent of total spiritual destruction. (‘That the Spirit of the Lord had left Sampson was bad enough, but that he did not know it was ‘tragic!’.
A person, as a result of one deft spiritual experience and tangible ‘ministerial triumph’, may look very sober, quiet, prayerful, disciplined, (often fasting), and even ‘holy’, and in every way creedally adroit – at least on the cardinals of the faith – and yet may have drifted from God and fallen into the deadly sin of spiritual pride! (Attitude of “I know it all” or ITK! This very subtle and most dangerous of sins or sign of fallen-ness is not easily detected especially by the victim, because he/she is under the grip of the master trickster, who is the total embodiment of pride or egocentricism and spiritual megalomania. In simple terms, without knowing it, the person has shifted focus from God, to focus on self; from focus and dependence, on the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit, to self-made rules; from child-like dependence on the free and spontaneous but predictable, humble and reasonable Spirit of the Living God, the Spirit of Grace, (See John 3:3-6; and James 3:15-18; II Peter 1:19-21); to the harsh legalism and ascetism of folk-religion, New Ageism and Occultic Spiritualism! These abound today (as we shall hear our Saviour warn shortly – Matt. 24. See Also I Cor. 10:12; II Cor. 13:5) “God spoke to me personally, I heard his voice, in fact I saw him, we were just like mates…” That is the Spirit of Lucifer. Let us beware!
These “god-is-in-you” religions or spiritualisms are counterfeits as St. Paul points out to the Asian Christians of his day, who’s religious background was Zoroastrianism and all sorts of star-gazing, ‘rule-abiding-food-denying-body punishing-movements’, whose leaders followed the elemental spirits – the spirit of the power of the air- was and still is at work in the children of disobedience and fallen nominal Christians, better known as Churchians! Both Paul and Peter, throughout their ministry were at war with these charlatans, astra travellers and worldly (money) minded preachers, whose god was their stomach and their end was (and still remains) destruction. But it is a final destruction that begins with spiritual death or haughtiness, in-ordinate self-esteem – spiritual pride – or megalomania, an inordinate desire, for unrealistic greatness! This is the source of Lucifer’s fall! (See Col. 2:16-23; II Pet. 2:10-22).
1.4 From Prophet to Satan.
This is a common, but subtle paradigm of the end time religious arena. Also known as the rise and fall of modern big time religious (Church) leaders! We thank God for the teachings of Paul and Peter who drank deep of the sanctifying river of God’s abundant and liberating Grace in Christ through humble submission to the discipline of the Holy Spirit! They were firm in their refusal to be deified or worshipped, or to make an idol of their experience. May God raise more of such humble, inspiring, truly discerning and Holy Spirit filled, soaked and controlled, servant leaders in our time. Amen.
Having had that awesome revelation and been publicly honoured by the Lord, Peter, carried away by egomania, went off his guard and the enemy of man’s soul took advantage of him! He did not leave the group and the privileged fold which was shepherded personally by the Saviour’s immediate presence. He was there with everyone else. In common parlance, he never missed his ‘Quiet Time’, fasting and days of withdrawal and retreats – both private and public. He paid his tithe or stewardship, building funds, harvest pledges, etc., his dress code did not change – outwardly. Yet, alas, deep-down inside, our dear leader of the “Special Twelve”, the Elite Crack Squad of the Prophet Nazareth’s Revolutionary Movement of which Judas Iscariot was the Treasurer, had been secretly captured by the enemy of man’s soul, Lucifer! Not by some false teaching or open rebellion, but by a sudden revision of his value system. This is important. King Solomon, from his own sad experience, warns all and sundry, especially young men to: Guard your heart with diligence
For out of it,
Are the issues of life. Prov. 4:23
Our Lord warned us that the most destructive wars of life are those that go on within and that the deadliest weapons, and wars, are those within:
From within, out of man’s heart come evil thoughts,
Fornication, thefts, murderers, adulteries,
deeds of coveting and wickedness.
All these things proceeds from within
And defile the man. Mark 7:20-23; Matt. 15:11 ff.
See also Chukwuocha, A. C. The War Within, Bedford, UK, IVP.
Similarly, James warns that the iniquitousness that gives birth to sin and sinful habits is first conceived within: ‘when a person is carried away by their own imaginations and ambitions…” James 1:13-16.
The line is very thin. One moment, a man is being praised for being a spiritual warrior, and suddenly, it gets into his head, he challenges the Holy Spirit and claims to be the superior one! (the narrative of Peter’s experience in Matt. 16 is worth our pondering).
One moment, Peter was praised as being God’s instrument, an agent of the Holy God and a channel of the Holy Spirit; the next moment – note, ironically, it was not at the public confession – but at his private personal retreat with the Lord that the real him became evident! That moment of one-on-one encounter, not at public worship and excitement of a “Crusade” or Revival gathering/Conference, but at the moment of “alone with God”. That person who must have power from God for service of God, must first be freed from self and from man to free them for God, must first learn the secret of being alone with God. Alone with God, in deep might and night silence with nothing to hide from God.
When others are celebrating their glory, the true saint still toils on his knees in tears of penitence and agony of intercession;
When others wallow in the murky bilge waters of decadent churchianity and transient materialism, the true saint longs to reach out to Greater Heights and into Deeper and Deeper depth of Divine Glory, beyond description.
In that mysterious yet fascinating presence,
All flesh ceases,
True humility of the Spirit is born;
Ego and all self take their creaturely place and bow in shame.
The saint, humbled, bows in deep midnight silence –
Struck by gratitude… How can it be…?
Overcome by the power of an ever so awesome, Numinotic Encounter,
Weak and numb beneath the Cross –
With nothing to hide and nothing to brandish in pride!
No desire; but God’s Glory alone, in Christ,
In absolute surrender and simple faith:
Open doored to this awesome and Holy God –
Emmanuel, Father and Friend!
This is what elsewhere, (See Okorocha 1987; 2009: True Worship), I have described as the Climax of True Worship. It is also what or in line with Endolf Otto’s classic, the Idea of the Holy, as the mysterium tremendum et fascinosum – that moment when Heaven and Earth kiss each other and “God and sinners (are) reconciled… This is what we all need on a daily basis!
1.5 Call For Caution and Need For Discernment:
At every moment of challenge, we need grace to discern between Christ centred values and worldly values especially when these materialistic values and ideas are coming from “big time religious leaders” or “money bags”. This is because Satan choses to use “social, political or even spiritual heavy weights”. Satan works very hard to try to pull down or smear those who are spiritual or enthusiastic or have recently had a fascinating experience in order to create doubts in people minds and confusion for the Church. Church leadership in these last days must ask God in humble prayer for a double portion of the Spirit of discernment for them personally and for His Church. Thus, we need to keep such people and our leaders in prayer both in Church and State, especially those who occupy positions of “official” authority in the Church even if you know them to be corrupt and unspiritual. (See Heb. 13:7-13).
We have noted how our dear Apostle Peter’s problem came about. The egomania or haughty spirit. Next was a worldly value system. Look at how the Lord rebuked him – in love but publicly, because that was the only language he could understand at that point in time. “Open rebuke is better than secret love”, (Prov. 27:5, 28:23). But such rebuke has to be done in love – not out of anger or with a view to humiliate, For, ‘The tongue of the wise brings healing’. Prov. 12:18
He was told that he (Peter) was drawing his values from the world rather than from the Holy God – in Christ. He bypassed the Cross. In order to maintain one’s spirituality and personal revival or Numinotic Encounter, we need to remember that the power that set the message of true spirituality (Rom. 1:15,16) in motion in the first instant needs constant and overhauling renewal, so that renewal and life transforming conversion will remain a continuous reality and in-touch with the holy God in every aspect of personal life at every point in human history (See Okorocha, 1987 Ch. 7, et passim). It is not enough to say that one is ‘born again’ or filled (or baptised) with the Holy Spirit, at a certain date in the remote or even immediate past. As Dr. R. A. Tory points out, and Dr. Oswald J. Smith corroborates, the heart cry for a socially transforming revival we need, is not another good essay or treatise on the history or theory of revival, the revival we need is a continuous experience of hunger for the Numinotic encounter in Christ at the Cross, not once in a while, but again and again – indeed on a daily or should I say hourly basis! Every moment, interjects Paul as he advised the Ephesians: the wine of yesterday will not quench the thirst of today so also is the filling or ministration of the Holy Spirit:
“Be aglow (or always at boiling point, with the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:11; Eph. 5:14-20) being filled – at all times – with the Holy Spirit so that yours may be a life of constant songs of joy and praise, no matter what situation you are in or how badly others treat or insult you. Keep an eye on the check of the Lord’s return so that you are not caught out unawares; (as it happened to our Father in God, Apostle Peter. (Matt. 16:22,23).
1.6 The Centrality Of The Cross:
Our dear Father in God forgot the Cross. This is quite telling: When a spiritual experience or ministerial triumph or “appointments”, gets us so excited that we begin to preach health and wealth and a cross-less Christ and a worldly prosperity Gospel, that is a dangerous signal. “Those who cannot bear the cross “down here” cannot wear the crown “up there”, for the Saviour warned that those who go into the ministry with an eye of the reward or material gains are not fit for the kingdom and those who are ashamed of the weak and crucified Christ of Calvary, have no place in the presence of the Christ of Glory. (See Luke 9:57-62; Mark 8:34-38)
The reference, of course, is not to a literal Cross, whether large or small, as Arthur Blesset had misconstrued in the mid to late 1970’s. It has to do with attitude and one’s value system. What informs your values and influences your actions. In short, who pulls your strings – money and worldly considerations or the call of true discipleship?