By Femi Aribisala
Many Christians reject central tenets of the faith Jesus delivered, while still claiming to be Christians.
We have been socialised on the word of men, contrary to the word of God.
Indeed, many have established no-go areas in their hearts and minds against the word of God. These no-go areas pertain to issues dear to us, about which we are not prepared to entertain anything contrary.
Thus, when a man loves money and desires to be rich, he would not entertain a gospel about Jesus living on earth as a poor man, but would rather transform the donkey he rode into Jerusalem into a Cadillac.
When a man’s heart is set on acquiring the good things of this life, he becomes immune to a gospel which insists we should hate the world and the things in the world. When a man is determined to prosper in the world, he becomes immune to any message that prescribes suffering for the sake of the gospel.
Enemies of the cross
The result of these “immunities” is that many Christians become “estranged from Christ.” Just like the Peter of old before the transformative Pentecost, we love the things of men more than the things of God. We persist in our own righteousness and reject the righteousness of God. We justify ungodliness by the idols of our heart. We prefer to be told what we want to hear than to hear the true word of God. We would rather be told lies than the truth.
Needless to say, God finds this tendency particularly offensive. He says through Isaiah: “They tell my prophets, ‘Shut up- we don’t want any more of your reports!’ Or they say, ‘Don’t tell us the truth; tell us nice things; tell us lies. Forget all this gloom; we’ve heard more than enough about your ‘Holy One of Israel’ and all he says.’” (Isaiah 30:10).
Therefore, the Lord himself sets us a trap. Since we don’t want to hear the truth, God makes sure we believe lies. He sends us his word but not in order to save. The word of God is preached that we may be snared by it. Isaiah says: “The word of the LORD was to them, ‘Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little,’ that they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught.” (Isaiah 28:13).
All men cannot receive the truth, but most men can receive lies. All men can receive money, but most cannot receive peace of mind. All men can receive death but most cannot receive life. Jesus said to the Jews: “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:47).
Vaccination against the truth
Many Christians have been so socialised on the traditions of men, we find it difficult to receive the word of God. Solomon says: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). But when a child is breast-fed on falsehood, it becomes difficult for him to receive the truth. False doctrines immunise us against the truth. That is why it is sometimes easier to preach the gospel to an unbeliever than to a Christian.
These immunities to the word of God are often developed by the very act of going to church. We do so by being followers of men and not of Christ. Without realising it, the messages we prefer vaccinate us against the sincere milk of the word. When we don’t read the scriptures for ourselves to find out the truth for ourselves, we become open to all kinds of strange self-serving indoctrinations.
Once we are grounded on falsehood, the truth of God becomes offensive to us. When we hear the true word, it provokes us and makes us uncomfortable. God’s wisdom is peculiar; it is by nature unpalatable to the flesh. It requires us to turn the other cheek, when we want to fight back. It asks us to pray for our enemies when we want them punished. It asks us to submit to one another, when we don’t feel like it. It asks us to obey our masters, even when they are horrid.
Therefore, even though we say we are Christians, we simply refuse to accept the counsel of God. The answer is that we pick and choose which scriptures we will obey. And yet, Christ cannot be divided. Jeremiah says: “To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Indeed their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot give heed. Behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach to them; they have no delight in it.” (Jeremiah 6:10).
Pick and choose
If the scripture is about blessings, we cram it, recite it and claim it. If it is about righteousness we overlook or ignore it. When it is convenient for us, we stand on the word of God. When it is inconvenient, we reject it. So doing, Jesus becomes for us: “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.” (1 Peter 2:8).
The Lord is constructing a building. The scriptures say we are that building. But the stone he is using is the word of God. He is building us up precept by precept; line upon line. But when we prefer the word of men to the word of God, then the building becomes our building. The Lord is no longer the builder: we are the builder. But the psalmist warns: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1).
Thereby, many depart from the true faith without even realising it. We quote the scriptures but fail to abide by its precepts. We go regularly to church, but are no longer believers. We preach stridently about one thing and do the exact opposite. We talk love but act hate. We preach to others but fail to preach to ourselves.
God knows how many times we have heard it preached that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, we continue to sleep with our boyfriends and girlfriends. We are still telling lies. We are still being mean, abusive and quarrelsome. We say to ourselves: “This particular scripture cannot apply to me. After all, God knows that it is not possible for a man to clear his goods at the ports without paying bribes.” “God knows that if I don’t get pregnant my fiancé might not know I am fertile and therefore might not marry me.”
And so it goes on and on. Ever so gradually, we convince ourselves that God will understand and condone our sins. After all, “nobody is perfect.” Without realising it, we soon become children of disobedience.
Jesus is the stone the builders rejected that has become the chief cornerstone. (Matthew 21:42 ). What he says to biblical Israel, he say to us today: “Therefore the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43).
On the last day, we shall be judged by the truths we reject. (John 12:47-50).