By Femi Aribisala
The riches and glories of this world are counterfeit.
If we were to ask Christians what Jesus saves us from, many would say we are saved from the torments of hell. However, the hell Jesus spoke about is a real place called Gehenna; a valley outside Jerusalem where apostate Israelites sacrificed their children to idol gods, which later became a rubbish dump where criminals were burnt alive. Thus, while the hell Jesus spoke about was well-known to the Jews, it is entirely imaginary to us.
The hell we know today is in this world. Hell is Nigeria; where armed-robbery and kidnapping is rampant; and the Boko Haram increasingly blows up the innocent. Hell is Norway; where Anders Breivik massacred nearly one hundred people in cold-blood. Hell is Germany; where millions of Jews were gassed to death. Hell is the United States; which routinely rains down “shock-and-awe” bombs on non-Americans; including Iraqis, Afghans and Libyans.
Hell is in every home; every neigbourhood; every city and every country of this God-forsaken world. It is in the water we drink; the food we eat; and the very air we breathe.
Salvation from Egypt
While the Israelites were saved from Egypt, for them a real hell-hole; it is this world which represents Egypt today. Accordingly, Jesus saves us from this sinful world. But when we love the hellish Egypt of this world, the good news of salvation from Egypt becomes bad news. The gospel we believe is about how God will cause us to prosper in Egypt. We want to be the multi-millionaires of Egypt. We want to own the best houses in Egypt; drive the best cars and wear the most fashionable clothes.
But if we hate Egypt, we can receive the gospel about how God will take us out of Egypt to his heavenly kingdom. The good news then is that: “the Egyptians whom we see today, we shall see again no more forever.” (Exodus 14:13). However, if we buy the lie, as many Christians do, that God is going to make us rich in this Egyptian world, then we cannot believe he is going to save us from the world. The one belief contradicts the other.
If we believe Jesus is going to save us from this world, then we must know that the riches and glories of this world are counterfeit. In short, we cannot receive the gospel of the kingdom of God unless we first hate this world. Accordingly, Jesus warns: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25).
John echoes Jesus: “Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love these things you show that you do not really love God; for all these worldly things, these evil desires- the craze for sex, the ambition to buy everything that appeals to you, and the pride that comes from wealth and importance- these are not from God. They are from this evil world itself. And this world is fading away, and these evil, forbidden things will go with it, but whoever keeps doing the will of God will live forever.” (1 John 2:15-17).
Nevertheless, Christians remain, by and large, lovers of life and lovers of this world.
For 120 years, Noah preached the gospel but nobody believed him. Noah preached that God would destroy the whole world in a flood, but would save only those who sought refuge in the ark. However, the people could not believe him because they loved the world. At the same time as Noah was saying God would destroy the world, there must have been others saying God would prosper his people in the world. Just as many pastors are doing today, they must have been preaching about forthcoming breakthroughs and showers of blessings in the world.
Of course, the people believed these false prophets rather than Noah. After all, why would God destroy the world when he himself created the world? Why would he destroy the world when there are so many wonderful things in the world? Not surprisingly, Noah could only persuade the members of his family. Even those he employed to build the ark were not “foolish” enough to go into it with him.
Jesus says: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the time of the Son of Man.”(Luke 17:26). That time is today.
Lot also preached the gospel in Sodom, but nobody believed him. He preached that God was going to destroy the city but would save those who fled immediately to the hills. But the people were more interested in hearing about how to prosper in Sodom. Their problem with Sodom was that NEPA was unreliable. They preferred the gospel about how to get a degree by grace through faith from the University of Sodom. They were more inclined to the “gospel” about who wants to be a millionaire in Gomorrah.
Jesus warns: “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:32-33). That warning is for now.
Salvation of Jesus Christ
In short, the gospel fails woefully to address the issues of primary concern to Christians. We want God to establish heaven on earth and make the world free of diseases; poverty; killings; floods; earthquakes; and other calamities. However, that agenda is not included in God’s plan of salvation. When the Messiah finally appeared, he did not reform the world or enrich believers in the world. When Jesus failed even to save John the Baptist from Herod’s prison, he sent his disciples to ask him: “Are you really the Messiah or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).
Therefore, pastors have given Christians another Messiah. They recognise Jesus is not the kind of Saviour we want. So they have created a more politically-correct Jesus. This new-improved Jesus became poor that all Christians may be multi-millionaires. This Father Christmas Jesus is going to bring about a major transfer of the wealth of unbelievers to Christians. But all this remains till date a pie in the sky.
Jesus provides no solution to the problems of this world. All he offers is how to overcome them spiritually. Indeed he assures us the problems will increase and not decrease. He says: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). What Jesus offers believers is peace in the midst of the vicissitudes of this life. He then promises an eternity of bliss in the bosom of God the Father, for those who endure to the end. (Matthew 10:22).
I attended a wedding at one of the parishes of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The guest pastor preached a passionate message of salvation. The crux of it was this: “If you give your life to Jesus, you too will buy a Pathfinder.” One man answered the altar call and “gave his life to Jesus.” I sat there wondering which Jesus he received. Certainly, it was not Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of the living God.