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The 14th biennial PFN theme “from Glory to Glory” was obviously an inspired capture to call forth things which are not as though they were! Speaking in the natural Nigeria is in a deep recession, unemployment is high, and inflation has gone through the roof. The nation is being torn apart by the combined forces of the boko haram and Fulani militia with violent crimes dotting the national landscape, kidnapping, ritual murders and armed robberies.
Citizens have been struck dumb with the daily reports of embezzled funds numbering in millions of dollars. Paralyzed by poverty and traumatized by the low value of human worth, many have resigned to fate while others eke a living from day to day with quiet desperation.
When darkness covers a land and a gross darkness descends on the people, the world calls it crisis but these dire descriptions are the signal for the righteous to rise and shine by reason of divine glory. Isaiah 60:1-3 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
The Pentecostal foot soldiers gathered in Benin City for the 14th biennial conference should be the 1st recipients of a gold medal for the enthusiasm with which they attended to the preliminaries, praising & worshipping, stamping their feet, shouting aloud and even doing the ‘white handkerchief thing’ that has become a part of our repertoire. By the time the dynamic Dr. Paul Enenche thundered the opening prayer demanding celestial collaboration, the people were bursting with expectation. The deft touches applied by Wale Adefarasin and Emmanuel Kure helped to steer things with order as Dr. Emmanuel Oluwayomi mounted the podium to deliver the first spiritual meal to the hungry crowd.
A COMBAT ASSAULT … Representing his absent General Overseer, Pastor Dr. E. O. Abinna, a founding father of the PFN, the younger doctor took everyone by surprise by spraying the crowd with a hail of bullets. Before anyone could take cover, Dr. Emmanuel Oluwayemi detonated 2 Tim 3:5 having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. Moving with guerilla tactics, he quickly established the connection between holiness and glory.
First he denounced those who celebrated the outer trappings of piety as proof of holiness before moving to the other extreme to pick a fight with the “ultra-grace” preachers in the Pentecostal fold rebuking those who preached liberty as license, not caring to apply decency and order. Within a few minutes, it had become clear that Dr. Emmanuel Oluwayemi had not come to the 14th biennial conference to take any prisoners.
Next he plunged into an acceptable definition for holiness taking care to explain the difference between holiness and righteousness. The shell shocked congregation could hardly respond as he ploughed on to enumerate a minimum of 12 unmistakable attributes of holiness. Poking fun at the thought that some would dare think holiness could be substituted with charisma, grammar, dress codes and religious pretensions he slashed at the soft underbelly of the PFN while the cameras panned through the crowd to capture the subdued expressions of the faithful in the pews.
NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER … There was no shortage of scriptures in his delivery as he quoted from Lev 19:2, 1 Peter 1:13-15, 2 Peter 2:9, 2 Kings 4:9, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, Hebrews 12:14 etc. Thundering like John the Baptist, he drove godly fear into his trembling listeners by recounting a fearsome revelation given to him about the rapture and a fellow minister. The minister in question had denied the revelation vehemently but was caught in adultery soon after. Quoting some religious authority or the other he announced that holiness was a state of the soul where the powers of the mind and body are consciously subjected to God.
Reloading his machine gun he surveyed the crowd and stepped up to rapid fire mode, “The Holy Spirit”, he insisted was not just a companion that was given to provide good things but the primary agency that assists us into holiness! Taking deadly aim he got the crowd to respond by fire and by force as he played the “don’t miss heaven” card. It is my candid opinion that there is no prayer that evokes greater fear and trepidation in the mixed multitudes than the ‘don’t miss heaven’ prayer point.
Not overly concerned whether the thunderous amen was born of dread or faith, the good doctor thanked the crowd for responding to that particular prayer missile. Dr. Emmanuel Oluwayemi further pushed his fiery ‘old time gospel’ with 1 Pet 2:7 and Ephesians 4:20-24 to press home his point. He posited that some had repented but were not converted and could not live a holy life since the old desires would remain. With echoes of Pa Akindayomi’s concerns, Dr. Oluwayemi proclaimed that unconverted preachers were a great danger to the church and were even more dangerous than unqualified pilots in the cockpit of a plane! The unconverted believer he continued was a great liability in the church too. It was clear that Dr. Emmanuel did not come to the conference with a sermon aimed at making more friends. For the crowd that had been primed for motivational encouragement on the secrets of success his delivery must have come as a shock!
A SPIRITUAL AMBUSH … Like the Donald Trump victory, this was not the kind of opening message that would have been expected at the 14th biennial conference. Nevertheless it is a ministration that I would encourage everyone to listen to carefully even though it delivered more warnings, admonitions and rebukes than encouragement.
Right on cue, Dr. Oluwayemi again shifted gears and began to expound on the traits of any believer that was ‘set apart’ unto the Lord. He rolled out scripture after scripture and left no stone unturned. From 1 Thess 4:7, 1 Pet 2:9, Matt 5:16, Eph 2:10, Act 10:38, 1 Cor 3:20 to Rom 8:12-13 and more, he taught on holiness and summed it up that there could be no glory without holiness. For a few minutes he spoke on the glory breaking it down with the help of the Greek and Hebrew lexicon. “Holiness and glory work together and sin and glory cannot work together” he announced to the chastened crowd. At this point he launched into the story of some inquisitive Roman General in 60 BC that demanded to see the holiness within the veil in the Jerusalem tabernacle. The military man remained adamant after several warnings about the lethal power in the Holy of Holies and finally got his wish when the curtain was lifted. Instead of instant death as prophesied the Army General saw darkness and lived to express his disappointment. “Ichabod – the glory has departed” was the conclusion of the story. Dr. Emmanuel Oluwayemi traded his gun for a spiritual bazooka and zeroed in on the modern Pentecostal pulpit with many questions centered on his perceived absence of the glory. Travelling back into time the doctor reminisced about the old glory that brought sinners to their knees in repentance. Quoting Billy Graham on revival he deposited two questions to wet the crowd’s appetite mentioning the awe of holiness and the abhorrent sinfulness of sin as the answers.
ICHABOD –WHEN THE GLORY HAS DEPARTED … Surveying the crowd he dredged up the testimony of a faithful sister that was overtaken by immorality and nostalgically recalled how the entire fellowship broke down in tears and open remorse when the deed was made known. Rounding up slowly he warned that ministrations should not become a performance, the sanctuary – a theatre, the congregation – an audience, nor worship – a form of entertainment. Screaming about the need for revival in these days he demanded that the PFN should stop promoting charisma above character, and tongues above holiness. On that moral high note he concluded his delivery and his exit was applauded with enthusiasm. Pastor Wale Adefarasin graciously collected the microphone and introduced the next speaker. But before we go on to the next ministration it would be profitable to count the blessings and gains in the good doctors ‘old time gospel’ ministration.
The ministration is still available online and every professing Pentecostal would do himself a favor by getting it. The good doctor’s ministration was a throwback to the SU – Scripture Union days and it brought the evangelistic film of yore ‘Burning Hell’ to mind. With such sincerity and forceful sermons we would be justified if we considered waiving the spiritual authentication test approved by God but one lesson that I have learnt is that it is needful to fulfill all righteousness even when we are swayed emotionally. Just consider the case recorded in Acts 16 where a damsel followed Paul’s apostolic team for several days announcing a word-perfect message that could have earned many people a promotion to the pastoral level in modern church times. From verses 16-17 … “and it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” Even though the message seemed perfect Apostle Paul still ran the spiritual authentication test and after many days the verdict was a great surprise! For all the scriptural correctness of the message its source was a divination demonic spirit. Acts 16:18 “and this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.”
SINCERE BUT INTIMIDATING CRY … Perhaps this lesson would help us to appreciate the divine wisdom of God concerning the spiritual authentication test. Having said that it is my opinion that Dr. Emmanuel Oluwayemi’s message was a sincere cry of a bleeding heart eager to see God’s glory in the land but it also raised many questions that are begging for an answer. Some people believe that the old gospel is as bad as the modern gospel when compared to the eternal gospel! It is said that the old gospel borders on legalism, frustrates grace and embraces poverty while the modern gospel encourages licentiousness, superfluity of naughtiness and crass worldliness.
The eternal gospel is however centered on the kingdom of God where heaven is preached as an assurance instead of an insurance policy. Indeed there seemed to be traces of triumphalism (this could be my imagination so please test it yourself) in the fire and brimstone approach the doctor engaged. Listening to the old tapes of Pa Akindayomi there was an extra edge in his voice that spoke of compassion and a compelling but not intimidating cry for holiness in the church. The doctors exegetical dissertation did point out the major flaws in the modern approach to holiness but fell short when it came to proving solutions for the willing believers. Given the opportunity I would have wanted to remind Dr. Emmanuel Oluwayemi that God has Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s in His fold and the category that has the greatest challenge with holiness would be the Jacob’s! Some persons by nature whether Christian, Muslim or Buddhists tend to be morally upright but others are like Apostle Paul whose words in Romans chapter 7 describe the struggles of most believers. Rom 7:19-24 for the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? This is the million dollar question that Dr. Emmanuel Oluwayemi did not address!
SPIRITUAL PRECISION GOSPEL … Most old time preachers of holiness sound very intimidating because the sincere believer that is struggling with besetting sins gets no reprieve but further condemnation from them. While Dr. Emmanuel Oluwayemi might have been right when he denigrated the ultra-grace preachers whose ministrations give assurances that the scriptures don’t, he still needs to understand that many young believers might prefer the escape provided for their tender consciences by ultra-grace to the perceived harsh condemnation of self-righteousness.
The younger generations have been brought up with the digital accuracy of ATM’s and often confess that the older generation have not produced much proof of eternal life beyond rhetoric. More so when there is an axis that believes that holiness can be attained by talking, acting and dressing like your general overseer even though we know that such a position is not quite true. If we want to be sincere we must acknowledge that Apostle Paul in breaking down the dynamics required for holiness admitted that, will power or determination is not enough to handle the law of disobedience lurking in the flesh. We must not forget that there are many Buddhists, Muslims and Zoroastrian’s that can present a form of holiness through sheer will power but its fruit will not stand the scrutiny of divine light.
Could it be that the old timers are no longer effective because they refuse to acknowledge the spiritual climate change of the end times? It would be terrible if Satan has managed to trap such good men in the past, living inside their own illusion of holiness while hungry but ignorant souls are perishing. It’s unfortunate that we have permitted the old time gospel to be associated with perpetual weeping, wickedness and poverty but their mien too has not helped matters. If permitted we might ask the good doctor why many of the children brought up under the joyless, judgment ridden, ever weeping, condemnation filled and poverty stricken gospel try to distance themselves when they grow up. It requires genuine humility to be like Jesus Christ and pretense or cover ups are not very convincing across generations. Since we are told that His commandments are not grievous there must be something we are still missing or pretending to know while we don’t.
THE JIMMY SWAGART MOLD … If we go down memory lane a good number of holiness gospel preachers, good men in their own right, have been caught practicing what they preached against vehemently and the public has always been very unforgiving. Instead of wearing a religious mask we must overcome the flesh convincingly as prescribed in the scriptures. In my own opinion the clue towards that grace-filled victory over the flesh is mentioned in Romans chapter 8:1-3 where the law of spiritual Life-in-Christ is prescribed as the antidote to the law of Sin–and-Death. History shows us that airplanes could not beat the law-of-gravity until the law-of-lift was well mastered and we just may continue to hear about spiritual crashes until the law of the Spirit of Life-in-Christ-Jesus is well mastered by the church. Unfortunately there are very few books or teachings on that subject of the spiritual law of Life-in-Christ-Jesus.
All in all it was refreshing to hear that old strain of the old time religion but the truth be told what is out there now can only be conquered with the eternal gospel that Jesus Christ preached. To make it worth your while after listening to Dr. Emmanuel Oluwayemi’s passionate message you could do a bible study to spot the differences between the Jesus Christ we preach and what Jesus Christ himself preached. Trust me its 7UP! The licentious modern gospel is definitely not the answer but generations will continue to be lured by its saccharine delights if we don’t return to the effective gospel that Jesus Christ preached. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of Decision. As we continue to meditate on the gains of the 14th biennial conference of the PFN I pray that God’s grace, peace and mercy will enable our generations to surrender ourselves to Him both in Spirit and truth until Christ is formed in His saints.