Text: Isaiah 49:5 – 6
The Lord has given the WCCRM what is obviously “an eleventh-hour business”. As many are aware, an outline of this business was announced to the head of the Ministry in April 2001. This was as he was returning from one of the evening ministrations during that 14 – day historic evangelistic campaign in Mbaise with about 12, 000 Watchman, titled, “Mbaise On The Hill”. It is this business that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Watchman Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement would have us review or preview and draw inspiration, lessons and favour from the December. So let all and sundry, the pastors, the women leaders, the workers, the youths, the children and all invitees give ear to what He has to say, and then enter into the benefits of this December retreat, as we go through the followings:-
1. The eleventh – hour explained
2. The eleventh – hour business analysed
3. Divine inspiration to embrace the business
4. The implications.
1. THE ELEVENTH – HOUR BUSINESS EXPLAINED
The American heritage dictionary of the English language says “the eleventh – hour” means “the latest possible time” (before the close of business). This dictionary went ahead to quote the parable of Jesus our Lord in Matthew 20:1 – 16. Let us now survey this parable so that we can understand what the eleventh –hour is all about. From Matt. 20:2-12, it is obvious that the house holder who hired those labourers went out at certain times or intervals between the beginning and the close of a day’s work:- 6am – 6pm, to hire the workers. The first time was at 6.00 am (early in the morning – Matt. 20:1-2). The second time was at 9.00 am (the 3rd hour) (Matt. 20:3-4). The third time was at12.00 noon (the 6th hour Matt. 20:5). The fourth time was at 3.00pm (the night hour Matt. 20:5). Lastly he went out again at the latest possible time before the close of work, termed “the eleventh – hour”, that is at 5.00 pm, one hour only to the close of the day’s work at 6.00 pm (Matt. 20:6-12). It is called the eleventh – hour because it is so close to the close of work that there could be no other time after it to go out to hire workers before work closes at 6.00 pm. Here is another illustration of “the eleventh – hour”. At the airports, planes are scheduled to take-off from given locations at given times to arrive other given locations at given times too. Let us consider a Belview Airlines plane, scheduled to leave Lagos at 7.00 am to arrive Abuja at 7.50 am. Usually the first announcement for passengers who are waiting with their tickets or who are yet buying their tickets to proceed to the tarmac to board the plane would be made at say 6.20 am (40 minutes to departure). This would be followed by another boarding announcement at 6.40 am (20 minutes to departure), and a final and “eleventh – hour” announcement at say 6.50 am (10 minutes to departure). This announcement at 6.50am is the latest possible because the period between this time and the closing of doors for departure is so short that no other boarding announcement is possible. It is in the light of the fore-going that all Watchmen must see this “eleventh-hour business” the Lord has given us. It is an “eleventh-hour” business because it is the latest possible preparatory arrangement of the church before the rapture.
THE ELEVENTH-HOUR BUSINESS ANALYSED (Isaiah 49: 5 – 6)
To analyse is to break something into its constituent parts, or to give the details of something. What then are the details of the WCCRM eleventh-hour business?
a. TO BRING JACOB AGAIN TO HIM (Isa. 49:5)
Jacob was one of the twin sons of Isaac (Gen. 25:24-26). He became the progenitor of the 12 tribes of Israel (Gen. 35:22-26). Later the name, Jacob came to be often used to mean God’s covenant people, His chosen and elect (Isa. 43:1-5; 44:1,2,21; Oba. 17). In this New Testament dispensation, Jacob represents the present people of God, the chosen and elect of God, the church (the body of Christ) (1Pt. 2:9,10). Now one of the 11th hour business God has presently charged the Watchman Movement with is To Bring Jacob Again To Him (Isa. 49:5). It is pertinent at this point to ask the following questions: What was Jacob’s original state or where was he originally? What later became of him? How do we bring him back again? What do the above mean for us today? Let’s now attempt answers to these questions. After Jacob had successfully wrestled with the angel and had his name changed to Israel, he became God’s blessed; one in whom the covenant of blessing will be fulfilled (Gen. 32:28). And as he remained faithful, he was holiness unto God; the apple of his eyes, etc. (Jer. 2:2; Lam. 2:18; Zech. 2:18). Jacob later backslid and so came under the judgement of God that made it (him) desolate and forsaken (cp. Jer. 25:32-38). It is for the purpose of bringing Jacob back again that Isaiah vowed neither to rest nor allow God any rest (Isa. 62:1-5). Daniel also interceded for the same restoration of Jacob (Dan. 9:1-4). As has already been stated, the Jacob of today is the Christian Church. The Church in its inception, was Christlike (Acts 11:26); the bride of the lamb (Rev. 19:7), holy, separated from the world and filled with/made up of heaven-bound pilgrims (Jn. 15:16, 19; 17:14; Heb. 3:1; 1Pt. 2:9-11). In the course of the years, particularly after the persecution of the early centuries, from about the 4th century, Jacob (the Church) began to undergo terrible backsliding, when many pagan practices and unscriptural doctrines began to be adopted, as Emperor Constantine feigned repentance and joined the Church. From that time till date Jacob (the Church) has been going further down to the dregs of backsliding and deadness till date. God had from time to time brought some revival in the past. But the state of the Church at this time that the Lord is about to return is rather horrible. The Church altogether, whether it is the orthodox, the evangelical, Pentecostal or Charismatic, is in a terrible backslidden state, and God has commanded that it should be brought back to the original state as a matter of 11th-hour business. The revival work to be carried out as commanded by the Lord is just the very last before the Lord returns.
b. TO RAISE UP THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL (Isa. 49:6)
The tribes of Israel or Jacob here refers to the various denominations that make up the Church. Today, most denominations of the Christian Church are down and out of the true way both by belief, precepts and practice. The Lord has commanded the 11th hour work (business) to raise them from the deadness of sin, error, backsliding and compromise to the true biblical standard of Christianity.
c. TO RESTORE THE PRESERVED OF ISRAEL (Isa. 49:6)
Literally, this refers to the survivors of the captivity; those who were left out of the captivity, but who, nevertheless, suffered losses, damages and who were into afflictions and troubles (cp. Neh. 1:1-3). Restoring the preserved of Israel today signifies the necessary restoration to be effected both in those Churches that appear not to be obvious captives of the devils as well as in those that are clear captives. It involves the restoration of those essential Christian virtues, principles and practices like holiness and right living, without which no man will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14); pilgrim life-style (1Pt. 2:11); separation from the world (Jn. 17:14; 1Jn. 2:15-17); firm stand on the truth of God’s word and truthfulness (cp. Eph. 6:14; 1Tim. 6:3); the unity of the body (cp. Jn. 17:17-23); etc.
d. TO BE A LIGHT TO THE GENTILES (Isa. 49:6)
It is common knowledge that ‘Gentiles’ in our dispensation refers to all categories of sinners. An important part of this 11th hour business (package) is that the Lord formed us is our mothers’ womb so that at this time we might constitute a means of light and salvation to all sinners (cp. Act 26:17-19). Sinner means all sinners whether they are religious (fetish) or not.
e. TO BE GOD’S MEANS OF SALVATION UNTO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH (Isa. 49:6)
This point should be considered in conjunction with the above stated point. We are meant to be a means of salvation not only to sinners within our immediate environment but also to all others in the ends of the earth. So He has given us to be a means of salvation to all sinners no matter their race, culture or creed. It is unto the ends of the earth; through out all Africa, Asia, Europe, America (North, Central and South) and the Oceanic. Although it sounds incredible, yet it is real/true. What an enormous task ! No wonder then no true Watchman at this time should toy with the issue of the IGMC of the hour which is the way God has ordained to reach men unto the ends of the earth, in addition to our mission front. Thanks be to God that our mission front will soon begin to assume its proper dimension. And all true Watchmen are enjoined to begin to get prepared for it knowing that an individual who will not go himself should be prepared to sponsor somebody to go on his behalf. Let’s here recall what the 11th hour is all about. And it need be stressed that this business cannot be negotiated. It is our life. On it hang our protection, provision and prosperity. It is indeed a very great and noble task/assignment. It is honourable. Let the teacher consider some testimonies of the honour involved. We should really be very appreciative of it (Cp. 1Thess. 2:4; 1Tim. 1:12). Although the task/business appears impossible of achievement by human estimation, the Lord is the one that has promised to do it through us and He will do it (cp. 1Cor. 1:26-29; 1Thess. 5:24). All that the Lord is requiring at our hands are faith, willingness and obedience (cp. Isa. 1:19). Surely, if He finds these, He will perform this seemingly impossible feat through us, in Jesus Name. Amen. And of course it is begun already.
3. DIVINE INSPIRATION TO EMBRACE THE BUSINESS ( Isaiah 49:5-6).
There is usually something that inspires or influence people into embracing what ever they are holding on to. This is usually so. Whether it is in the religious, political, academic or any other realm for that matter. The love of money in the purse he was in charge of influence Judas into not taking the words of Jesus seriously (Jn. 12:6). The joy of executing God’s plan for mankind’s salvation and the glory that would follow influenced Jesus our Lord into enduring the contradictions of sinners, the cross itself, despising the shame (Heb. 12:1-3). Regarding this eleventh-hour Business of the WCCRM from the Lord, the Lord has said, done and is still saying and doing things that are meant to inspire us/influence us into holding tenaciously to the calling. Consider the following inspirational statements embedded in the text:-
(a) Formed and elected in the womb for this service expatiate (Isa. 49:5 cp other like scriptures)
(b) Even though the assignment is not yet accomplished we are glorious (honourable, precious, unique) in the eyes of the Lord (Isa. 49: 5 ).
(c) The Lord being our strength – our backer, our defender, our source of boldness, strength etc, while we are executing the business (Isa. 49:5) Expatiate.
4. THE IMPLICATION
What are the implications of this calling of God upon us? What are the inferences? In other words, seeing that we have been given such an assignment, what and what then are expected of us? Broadly speaking, seeing we have been called as physicians, we must first be healed, wholesome and remain healed and wholesome. We cannot afford to be anything less than “the model”. The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits (2 Tim. 2:6). Now the details of the implications.
By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye
With proven men of God like Pastor Aloysius Chukwuemeka Ohanebo still around and standing resolute and unmoved in their insistence on old-time, Christ-like Christianity as practiced by the apostles of Christ, and strongly determined to continue practicing and teaching this “narrow way that leads to eternal life” to all men and women in the face of the polluting influence of the perverted gospel issuing from the pseudo modernism and outright backsliding being advertised all over the place, genuine believers can take consolation that there still remain in the land a number of “knees which have not bowed unto Baal.”
Indeed, we still have a few men, holding aloft the shinning light of true godliness, selfless service and unquestionable Christian character, and beckoning on all others to follow. This is especially important and reassuring, because over the years, the whole landscape appears overrun by charlatans, clear backsliders and a mass of unregenerated men and women found these days on every hole and cranny of our city and rural centres “spreading” their kind of gospel and “performing miracles.”
Unfortunately, these appear to succeed so well in their Satan-inspired and directed mission: to attract immense discredit to the most holy faith by their ugly lifestyles, confuse so many, and eventually lead them away from the only hope for salvation available to mankind into eternal punishment in hell.
But thank God for His mercies, a few like Pastor Ohanebo are still around, like lone voices in the wilderness, calling on all and sundry, to shun all worldly, perverted and substandard Christianity of whatever hue, no matter the flashiness, status, flamboyance and dignity of their propagators, because, at no time has God changed His standard.
Pastor Ohanebo is the General Superintendent of the Watchman Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement (WCCRM), with its headquarters in Lagos. I am told that the word “CATHOLIC” in the Church’s name is used in its original and proper sense, to mean, “universal” or “for all.” In his over two decades in ministry, Pastor Ohanebo’s view that Christianity must remain an “all-round package” has remained consistent.
What this means is that any person, whether preacher or prophet, who claims to use the power of a holy God for miracles and wonders must equally vindicate such a claim by right-living and personal holiness in every conduct and relationship with others. Indeed, God who he claims to work for is a holy God. It is difficult to believe that God could bestow His power on an individual without imparting in him His nature and attributes, which distinguishes His children from carnal men or the devil’s children and servants. The devil can give powers for miracles, prophetic insight and visions. But he lacks the power to regenerate people, sanctify them, and impart in them the life and nature of the most holy God.
That is why the lower media now derive characteristic vulgar excitement from celebrating on their covers the unedifying, scandalous lifestyles of mostly flamboyant “miracle pastors” who are only manifesting the very nature of their “father.”
Pastor Ohanebo’s ministry has seen a lot of miracles, where incurable diseases are rolled away, but this hardly gets into the media. Yes, people must be healed and delivered, but real emphasis should focus on the salvation of their souls. His name rings bell among the multitudes that had encountered him and his God-directed and God-centred ministry. Throughout the about fifty parishes of his Church in Lagos, and many others in several parts of the nation and abroad where thousands of worshippers convoke weekly to serve their God in truth and spirit, this man of God insists on the same standard everywhere.
The WCCRM is built on a very strong foundation of discipline and godly character, which he believes should be the hallmark of any Christian congregation. That is why he insists that the WCCRM members everywhere must be identical in character and appearance. There is nothing like an Americanized or Europeanized version of the Church. All forms of worldliness and indecency in appearance and conduct are abhorred with unyielding resoluteness.
We have before us a man with a great burden and vision for his generation, who has schooled himself to remain undistracted by the several irrelevant matters that consume others. He, for instance, does not court publicity. And even though he heads such a large ministry with branches all over Nigeria, several parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Canada and the United States, I have not once heard that he addressed a press conference, nor granted any press interview, though, they keep seeking his attention.
His Church organizes well-thronged programmes and crusades regularly, and he is always ministering at those events, but people are always amazed that the posters and handbills advertising the programme do not carry his photographs. He is so careful about projecting himself instead of God. All he wants at all times is that multitudes be won to Christ and the entire glory goes to God. It is equally the same reason that his face does not daily adorn TV screens despite his awareness of the immense publicity such a preoccupation would accrue to him and his Church.
(First Published in July 2004, A Few Days Before Pastor Ohanebo’s Sixtieth Birthday On July 17, 2004)
LAST time we studied and learnt from how the Lord’s early disciples were made. Today, we are studying and learning from one of the instruments with which disciples are made for the Lord, termed “SIGNS” From our text, we see the previous condition of Nathaniel’s heart (John 1:46), as well as the later condition (John 1:49). His heart was moved from ignorance to knowledge. It was also taken from doubt to faith, and saving faith in the Lord.
Apart from the human instrument used (Philip), it was this supernatural phenomenon, manifested by the Lord that helped to work up faith in him. This supernatural phenomenon is known as “the word of knowledge” (1 Corinthians 12:8; John 1: 42-48). This, inter-alia, is the reason for our study of the subject – SIGNS.
“Signs” in our context therefore do not mean “token” but those supernatural phenomena, granted believers. They include miracles and wonders (Exodus 4:2-4, 6-7,9; 7:8-10,19-20; 8:5-6; 14:15-16, 21-22, 26-28; 15:23-25; 17:3-6; Joshua 3:14-17; 1 Kings 13:1-3, 5-6; 17:1, 19-22; 18:36-38; 2 Kings 5:10, 14, 25-27; Matthew 8:1-3, 13; 9:6-7; 14:25; John 2:6-11; 5:5-9; 6:11-14; 11:41-44; Acts 3:6-8; 8:6-8; 9:17-18, 37-40; 13:9-11; 1 Corinthians 12:10; Galatians 3:5; healing ability (Matthew 4: 24; 8:16; Mark 16:18; Acts 5:15-16; 1 Corinthians 12:9); casting out devils (Matthew 4:24; Mark 16:17; Luke 10:17-18; Acts 3:16; 16:16-18); speaking with new tongues (Mark 16:17, Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-46; 19:6; 1 Corinthians 12 :10); taking up serpents unknowingly without being hurt (Mark 16:18; Acts 28:3-6); taking in poison (unknowingly) without being hurt (Mark 16:18); Word of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8a; Daniel 2:19, 36-45; 5:25-28; Matthew 22:15-22; John 8:3-9); Word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8b; Luke 10:18, 22- 31; John 1:42, 47-48; 11:11); faith (extra-ordinary) (1 Corinthians 12:9a); prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:5-6, 24-25); discerning of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10b; Acts 16:16-18); interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10c).
Some “signs” are as a result of faith in the Lord (Mark 16:17-18); others are gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-10). Yet others fall into the two categories (e.g. tongues – Mark 16:17b and 1 Corinthians 12:10); healing – (Mark 16:18 and 1 Corinthians 12 :9).
God grants “signs” to confirm the truth of His Word. (Mark 16:20; John 5:36; Hebrews 2:3-4). If signs confuse, or conflicts with His Word, then He did not grant such (Isaiah 8:20). Further, signs are meant to work up conviction and faith in the heart (Exodus 4:1-5, 8-9, 30-31; 8:18-19; 1 Kings 17:23-25; 18:38-39; 2 Kings 5:14-15; Matthew 4:23-25; John 1:47-49; 2:11; 9:17; Acts 13:12; 1 Corinthians 14:24-25), and to gladden our heart and motivate glorification of God Himself (1 Kings 18:39; 2 Kings 5:15; Matthew 15:31; Mark 2:12; Acts 3:8-9; 4:21; 8:5-8).
Let us study further into the subject as we consider the following points.
1. THE DISCIPLE AND SIGNS
THE believer should see “these signs shall follow them that believe” as a law. Law in this context means, factual statement on “what always happens in certain circumstances”. An example is one of the laws of supply and demand, stating that, “at a lower price, more of the commodity will be demanded”. This is always so.
God has commanded: “signs follow them that believe” (Mark 16:17). This will always be when the ingredients that will make it work are present. (i) They must be real believers, who are living right. In other words, their lives have changed, having met with Christ and have been with Christ (consider John 1:37-41; 6:68-69; Matthew 19:27; Acts 4:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17). (ii) They must believe that He is able and will do what He says He will do (Mark 16:17; John 14:12; Romans 4:20-21; Philippians 1:6). (iii) They must have, and give the truth of His words (Mark 16:20; John 5:36; Hebrews 2:2-3). Therefore the disciples should disseminate the gospel with signs.
The disciple however is not a “sign-seeker”, or a “follower of signs” in the manner of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Scribes (consider Matthew 12:38,39; 16:1-4; John 2:18; 6:30). Rather, signs follow him (Mark 16:17, 20; Hebrews 2:4). Nevertheless, he can ask for signs for confirmation (Judges 6:36-40; 2 Kings 20:8-11; Isaiah 7:10-14).
Signs are not confined to those who have the baptism with the Holy Spirit, rather they are the prerogative of all those who really believe, as already explained (Mark 16:17; John 14:12). However, signs which are exclusively gifts of the Holy Spirit are exclusive to those who have baptism with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:4-10). The manifestation of such signs is at the discretion of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4,11).
2. THE DEVILS AND SIGNS
THE devils have counterfeit sign and manifest same (Exodus 7:10-12, 20-22; 8:6-7; 1 Samuel 28:6-9; Acts 16:16-17; Acts 8:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 2:9). However, there is limit to what they can do (Exodus 8:16-19; Implied Exodus 7:12). They give out or show counterfeit signs to seduce and deceive the insincere and those without love for the truth. They do it also to retain the “sign-conscious-sinner” and the “sinner-sign-giver” in their errors and sins (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; Jeremiah 14:14; 23:26).
NB. The devils will go any length to ensure that their captives are retained for damnation forever ( implied in 2 Corinthians 11:14).
3. DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN SIGNS
TO distinguish between signs from the Lord and those from the devils, the following questions will help: Is there evidence of regeneration, sanctification (holiness) in the lives of the minister/ministers? (compare John 8:46; 1 Thessalonians 2:10). Are the signs based on the pure Word of God/the truth of the Word, or on rituals, “holy water”, incantations, “holy candles” incense, some concoction and other occultic tools? (consider John 17:8,14; 1 Timothy 6:3-5). Is the glory of the Lord the primary objective of the minister and the people (consider John 7:18; Galatians 1:10). Is the interim and eventual salvation of the people the primary concern of the minister and the people? (consider John 17:1, 6,8, 11-12; Colossians 1:28). Is the minister serving for filthy lucre’s sake, for the belly? (consider 1 Timothy 3:8; Philippians 3:19). Are the ministers and members, sinners, having no trace of regeneration, talkless of sanctification? (consider Hebrews 12:14).
Wherever the answers to the above questions are not in the affirmative, the signs there are not of God.
Peter 1:14 – 16; Hebrews 12:14
THE national footballers, in preparation for a football encounter are called to the camp. Anyone of those called is free to accept or reject the offer. If one accepts the call-up (invitation), it means that one must subject oneself to the rules in the camp.
The Christian faith is a call unto HOLINESS (1 Peter 1:14-16; 2 Peter 3:11; Matthew 5:20; Hebrews 12:14). It is a call from God, the Almighty King, who rules and reigns in the kingdoms of men (Daniel 4:32; Matthew 6:13b; a call to abhor and reject the Adamic (sinful) nature and turn away from its resultant sins – adultery, fornication, bribery, wickedness, lying, cheating, slandering, quarreling, fighting, cursing, bitterness, idolatry, hatred, anger, etc; a call to accept and appropriate through faith in the cleansing blood of Christ, a new nature, patterned after that of Christ (Hebrews 9:13,14); a call to reject spiritual death (indifference toward God and Godliness – Matthew 8:22), and embrace true life (John 5:24,40; 10:10). It is a call to reject eternal death (separation from God in eternity – Revelation 21:8) and embrace life everlasting with God in heaven (John 3:16). It is a call to reject vanity and embrace reality and glory; a call God has been making through the ages to all and sundry.
Holiness or Purity is an attribute of one’s heart (one’s thoughts, desires, actions and reactions) that makes one conform to the image of God. It is a state of continuous victory over sin and the ability to carry out the will of God in our lives. Holiness is easy and possible to maintain but it demands a clear-cut decision to be mindful of heaven and not the desires of our flesh. God has demanded holiness from every believer who wants to see God and this is because He knows that we can keep ourselves holy by His grace. (1 Timothy 5:22; Titus 2:11-12).
IT is the command of the Lord to His people both in the old and new testaments. Anybody who has repented of, and forsaken his/her sins and subsequently accepted the Lordship of Jesus Christ has been called to be holy. (Leviticus 11:44,45; Exodus. 19:6; Luke 1:67-79; 2 Corinthians. 7:1; Romans 12:1; Eph. 1:4; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:16; 2 Peter 3:11; Matthew 5:20,48).
GOD is holy (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:15) and His home is holy (Psalm 15:1; 24:3). Knowing that all men who have ever lived, or will ever live in this world are bound to live again forever with whatever reward they have worked for (Revelation 20:11-15), and that He Himself and His Kingdom cannot accommodate the unholy, He therefore calls so that men will escape the danger of living in eternity without Him, (Exodus 15:11; 1 Samuel. 2:2; Psalm 22:3; 99:9; 145:7; Isaiah 6:2-3; 49:7; 57:15; Leviticus 11:44; Malachi 3:6).
3. THE POSSIBILITY OF HOLINESS
OF course the world lies in wickedness and sin abounds, but where sin abounds, grace much more abounds (Romans 5:20-21). “The grace of God which bringeth salvation has appeared to all men teaching that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly (calmly), righteously and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12; 2 Corinthians 9:8).
As we completely surrender our heart desires, thoughts, ambitions etc, and plead the merit of the blood of Jesus, God, whose will it is to make us holy, will purge our consciences of dead works to serve the living God (1 Thessalonians. 4:3; 5:23; Hebrews 9:14; Isaiah 6:1-7).
4. PREVAILING IN HOLINESS
Study diligently and apply the word of God in all the circumstances of your life (Psalms 119:9-11; John 15:1-4; 17:16-17; Matthew 4:4).
b. Pray constantly the prevailing prayer of faith (Luke 22:46; 18:1; 1 Thessalonians. 5:17; James 5:17)
c. Avoid all occasions of sin (1 Thessalonians. 5:22-24; James 4:7; Colossians 3:1-6)
d. Identify with Christ in all things (Revelation 12:11; Colossians 3:17; Matthew 10:32-33).
5. PREVENTIVES TO HOLINESS
As some preventive drugs are used to ward-off disease so the following can ward-off (hinder) holiness.
a. Double mindedness (Luke 9:62; 1 Kings 18:21; James 1:5-8)
b. Ignorance of the Word of God (Matthew 22:29; Hosea 4:6)
c. Prayerlessness (Mark 14:38).
d. Worldliness (1 Peter 3:3-4; 1 Timothy. 6:7-11)
e. Impure environment (pictures, novels, calendars, etc, that breed impure thoughts (Romans 12:1-2; Philipians 4:8; Matthew 6:22-23).
The above statement of the Lord to the formerly impotent man is compelling us today to stop and think seriously. The subject of sin is a major one. It is the height of foolishness, self-deceit and destruction for any person not to take the issue seriously. If sin can bring a worse condition than a 38 year old paralytic condition, then it is superfluous to say that the issue is a serious one. In fact sin determines man’s state and standing with God now and in eternity. Therefore no real person can afford to toy with the issue.
1. SIN DEFINED
SIN is the express transgression of the law, that is, anything said or done which goes against God’s written, spoken or acted Word (Hebrews 2:2; 1 John 3:4). All manner of unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17) – vain talk (Proverbs 10:19); contempt for others (Proverbs 14:21); foolish thoughts (Proverbs 24:9); unbelief (Romans 14:23); neglect of opportunity (James 4:17); all works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). Sin is primarily against God and secondarily against fellow man (Exodus. 32:33; 1 Corinthians. 8:12).
2. SIN UNIVERSAL (Genesis 6:5; 1 Kings 8:46; Psalm 14:3; 53:3; 130:3; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes. 7:20; Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Micah 7:2; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8).
THE universality of sin is as a result of the depravity that was passed on to all men from Adam (Genesis 5:3). The natural man has sin enshrined in his flesh. It is not that he commits sin, but that he must commit sin (Romans 7:14-24).
With the spiritual man, that is, the one who has been given the Spirit of Christ, sin is no more enshrined. Another law is now at work in his members (Romans 8:1-3).
3. SIN ALLURING (Genesis 3:6; Joshua 7:21; Proverbs 9:17; 14:12; James 1:14; 2 Peter 2:18)
SIN is alluring because of the sinful flesh that man is carrying and because of the pleasure therein (Hebrews 11:25). The Lord, His angels and the saints who do not possess our kind of flesh cannot be attracted by sin, rather their nature/flesh repulses or hates sin (Deuteronomy 25:16; 2 Samuel 11:27; Psalm 5:4; 11:5; Proverbs 6:16; Zechariah 8:17; Luke 16:15).
4. SIN DECEPTIVE (Romans 7:11; Ephesians 4:22; 1 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 3:13; Hebrews 3:13; Revelation 19:20).
THE pleasure of sin is deceitful. A deceitful thing is that which tries to hide the consequence of doing that thing to the doer. Satan so magnifies the pleasure of sin that the destruction behind it is not readily seen.
5. SIN DESTRUCTIVE (Psalm 34:21; 140:11; Proverbs 8:36; 11:3,19; 18:7; Isaiah 3:9; Hosea 13:9; Matthew 7:13; Romans 7:11; 1 Timothy 6:9).
The destruction that sin causes is such that we must all stop and think. Sin is destructive to both the flesh and the soul at last (Matt. 25:41-46). Sin must therefore be forsaken (Job 11:14; Isaiah 55:7; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 2:11; Hebrews 12:1). Once repented of, confessed and forsaken, sin will be pardoned (Proverbs 28:13). All manners and magnitudes of sin are pardonable (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 78:38; 85:2; Mark 2:5; Colossians 2:13), except the sin unto death (Matthew 12:31; 1 John.5:16).
If we must see sin in its true perspective, we must know something of the unique nature of God Almighty. The Lord Almighty is an embodiment of Holiness. Hence such statements as, “who is like unto Thee, glorious in holiness” (Exodus. 15:11 compare 1 Samuel 6:20; Psalm 99:9); “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3; compare Revelation 15:4); “holiness becometh Thy house” (Psalm 93:5); “mine holy One; Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil…” (Habakkuk 1:12,13).
EVERY Christian experience received has proof. If any person is born-again/born of God/regenerated/quickened/saved/in Christ, he must have a changed nature e(2 Corinthians 5:17; Ezekiel 11:19; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:15); he is sure his past sins have been done away with (forgiven and forgotten) (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 2:13; 1 John 2:12); he has been taken out of sin and does not live in sin (Psalm 51:12; Philippians 1:25). Besides, God, Christ and the Holy Spirit who were previously unreal are now real. The Bible, reading it, praying, listening to the Word and fellowshipping with others, previously spurned are now loved.
HEARKEN: HEAVEN IS A CITY, REAL BUT SPIRITUAL (IN THE SENSE THAT IT IS NOT SEEN WITH THE NATURAL EYES), AND “BEING BORN AGAIN” OF THE WORD AND SPIRIT OF GOD IS THE TICKET INTO IT.
SINCE it is the Word and Spirit that regenerate, one must needs receive them; therefore the Lord makes His Spirit available wherever He has put His Word (consider Genesis 1:1-3). This is one of the reasons those really appointed by Him to preach the Word are given substantial measure of His Spirit (Luke 24:47,49; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; John 3:34; Acts 10:38). Therefore the words such people speak are “spirit” because of the Spirit of God in them (John 6:63; compare Galatians 3:5). This is the reason those who heard and received Christ’s, or the apostles’ word and believed in God that sent them were quickened (John 5:21,25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
But receiving God’s Word with His Spirit to be born-again entails, (I) yielding to conviction that one is needy, as did Nicodemus (John 3:1-2 consider Psalm 51:3b; 73:21; Acts 2:37); (ii) repenting, rejecting and emptying oneself (through confession) of one’s sins (e.g. Psalm 51:1-17); (iii) manifesting saving faith in the sacrifice of Christ (Acts 20:21). So the Lord, knowing the role of His Word and Spirit challenged Nicodemus into receiving His Word (John 3:11-12).
TO aid ignorant Nicodemus (John 3:4), the Lord broke down the experience of being born again into its two constituent parts, i.e.; “being born of water and of the Spirit (John 3:5,6). He further explained and illustrated the experience (John 3:6,8), but Nicodemus would not understand (John 3:9). The situation is unfortunately the same today. Part of the problem today is the mention of water. Many have therefore been taught that they are born again because they have been baptized in water either at infancy, or at adulthood. To clear the sky of the clouds, and aid our understanding, let us note the following:-
In Scriptures, this experience is called some other names, e.g; “being born of God” (John 1:13; 1 John 3:9; 4:7; 5:1); “being quickened” (resurrected from spiritual death) (Ezekiel 37:10; Luke 15:24; John 5:21,25; 6:63; Ephesians 2:1,6; Colossians 2:13; 3:1); “being regenerated” (Titus 3:5); “being in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The water mentioned as one of the instruments of “being born again” is not the water of baptism in view of the following truth:- (I) All Old Testament saints were born again and saved without water baptism (Hebrews 11; 9:15; James 2:23; Psalm 32:5; 103:3; Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; Deuteronomy 32:18; 2 Peter 1:21). (ii) They all had the Holy Spirit, gifts and many other blessings without baptism (Psalm 51:12; 1 Kings 3:12; 4:29-34; Numbers 11:17-29; Acts 3:21; Luke 1:15-17,41,46,67; 2:25-38; Hebrews 11). (iii) Many in Christ’s ministry were forgiven and born again without water baptism (Matthew 9:1-7; Luke 7:48; 18:9-14; 19:1-9; 23:43; John 4:49-53; John 7:31; 8:30-31; 11:45; 12:11,42). (iv) Men have been baptized in the Holy Spirit before water baptism (Acts 9:17; 10:44-48; 11:14-18; 15:7-11). (v) Christ was baptized in water without (need of) forgiveness of sins (Matthew 3:15-17). (iv) Baptism in water is a mere figure (1 Peter 3:21); but not held as essential to salvation (1 Corinthians 1:13-24; 15:1-5; Romans 1:16; 10:9-14; Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 10:43; 13:38-39; 16:31; John 3:14-18,36; 5:24; 1 John 5:24). (vii) Baptism in water is only for men who have repented (Matthew 3:2-6; 28:19; Acts 2:38; 8:12,37; 10:43-48; 18:8; 19:4).
In the Scriptures, water is used in a symbolic sense of salvation (John 4:14; Isaiah 12:3); of the Spirit’s baptism (John 7:37-39) and of cleansing by the Word of God (John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26). Since men are cleansed and born-again by the Word of God (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23), it is clear that being born again of water means being born again by the water of the Word of God.
Further to the above, the Lord Jesus came an embodiment of the Word of God (John 1:1 & 14; 7:17; 8:26,28,38; 12:49-50) and of the Spirit of God (John 3:34; Matthew 3:16), therefore the Word and the Spirit quickened whosoever that received them (John 5:21,25; 6:63).
Besides, being born again is a spiritual exercise (not involving the flesh). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). The beneficiary is the spirit of man. The man does not know how it happened, but sees the result of what has happened, as in Christ’s illustration (John 3:8), unlike in water baptism. Hence, there are many, who, on being exposed to the truth of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit get born again without realizing when it actually took place.
Again, “whosoever is born of God (born again) doth not commit sin” (1 John 3:9) is true only of those who have been quickened by His Word and Spirit, and not those who have just had water baptism. Therefore it is conclusive that the instruments of being born-again/born of God/quickened/regenerated/being in Christ, are the water of the Word and the Spirit of God.
The question from the Lord to Nicodemus was, “art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:10). Today, the Lord is posing the same question to all the categories of people who engage in this or that (as listed before in this study), but have not bought the ticket to heaven. This question can be stretched to those who have been born-again, but know not about restitution, sanctification, baptism with the Holy Spirit, tithes and offerings, evangelism, service to the Lord, testifying to the goodness and glory of God.
The Lord’s thought-provoking (not insolent) question made Nicodemus re-think his standing before God; His actions later proved that he became born again after the encounter with Christ the Lord (consider John 7:47-51; 19:39-40). This is a good example for anyone whom the Lord is asking some questions today.
Again, if such questions are asked those within the visible Church, what is the position of those without and those who have entirely different religious persuasions they are following?
THE indispensability of this experience is unquestionable, given the fact that the information on it came from none else than the Lord, who is God’s truth (Word) personified (John 1:1, 14; 14:6) and who, in the days of His flesh spoke nothing but that which God gave Him (John 7:17; 8:26,28; 12:49,50).
In fact the information came from God Himself, seeing that Christ is God (John 1:1; Isaiah 9:6). The PRE-EMINENCE of this experience is also brought out by the following fact:- Nicodemus was not only a Jew, but a member of the supreme Jewish council (the Sanhedrin). He was a Rabbi, i.e.; a master, or teacher (of the law and the traditions) and a spiritual leader. He was convinced of God’s existence, God’s power and the fact that Jesus was sent by God (John 3:1-2).
To the ordinary (natural) mind, it would appear that Nicodemus was already on his way to heaven, but the fact that such a religious man needed to be “born again” portrays the pre-eminence of the experience. This reminds us of Cornelius who apparently was more pious than Nicodemus, yet needed to be “born again” also (Acts 10:1-5).
The INDISPENSABILITY of this experience can be likened to that of air, water and food to human life. Therefore, whatsoever one has that may appear good – teaching catechism, singing in the choir, leading a religious life of the ordained or the professed, belonging to pious societies, going to sacraments, being Church wardens/ushers, being “God-parents”, giving alms, paying tithes and giving offerings, coming to fellowship regularly, fasting and praying, singing Christian songs, making peace among men, etc; if one is not born-again, these things are and will be USELESS before God now, and in the end (John 3:3,5,7).
It should be noted that,”except a man be born again, he CANNOT see the kingdom of God” is not a statement relating to the Jews only, but also to non-Jews. Today therefore, it concerns those within Christendom and outside it.