by Pastor Afolabi Oladele
With the current spate of persecution of the church in Nigeria and a resultant battle of the flesh from Christians, it is time to raise the alarm, and sound the word of God to the church, which is on the verge of apostasy.
Hear the voice of the Lord in Psalm 29:1-10: “Give unto the LORD, O you mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon. He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn. The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory. The LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King for ever. The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.”
From this scripture, we find two things that are unique about the voice of the Lord—the voice of the Lord is heard, and its effect is seen. So if the voice of the Lord is heard and seen, how come the people do not hear? It is the hearing of the voice of the Lord that is very crucial at this time.
A unique development of our age is photography—the still picture and the moving picture. The images have become a unique and extricable part of our lives and have now revolutionalised human social communication.
While human direct communication is on the decline because of these, such that even in homes, family members would rather communicate via a phone, than speak directly to one another. This has resulted in the breakdown of a most important human fabric that is in the nature of God—relationship—being torn apart in the name of technology. We can call it efficiency, and easy communication, but is that God’s intention? If the creator of heaven and earth came down every day to sit and converse with Adam (Genesis 3:8) shouldn’t we be wary of a modernism that causes us to throw away such relationship?
Oral and written communications are in the decline because of this new form of communication by image. This age of “image communication” was really born with the invention of photography a little more than 150 years ago; a very recent development, when viewed in terms of the human timeline on earth. Then about fifty years ago, the still picture metamorphosed into moving pictures, but why all these at this end of time?
As with all such sudden and recent trends that have impacted the world, one must ask: why now; why during these last days? God who made man had a plan for him, but how can a technology that just surfaced some hundred years ago take over man’s life? Is the question of image just another friendly technological development, or are there some hidden side effects that we are failing to consider despite its novelty and convenience? Could a video or movie phenomenon be playing the handmaiden to key last-day trends?Worldwide, the eyes of mankind are engaged like never, on icons, on images, on videos. But let’s look at things in the light of God’s word, in Matthew 13:13;
“Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”
The danger in all this is that a mimicking is going on, trying to mimic what God is doing, as seen in Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”
True, images are found almost everywhere, from newspapers and Billboards to elevator video screens and the exteriors of city buses…everywhere, advertising one thing or the order. Is there something behind all these communication mediums that we are not seeing?
Let me share some TV statistics in the USA with you, just project it to Nigeria.
1. The percentage of households that possess at least one television is 99%.
2. According to 2005 census data, adolescents and adults now spend, on average, more than 64 days a year watching television and a little over a week using the internet; and a man of an average age of 65/66 years would have spent 9 years of his life watching television. Can you imagine spending 15%of your life time in front of the TV?
3. The average number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children is three and half (3 1/2) minutes! How much time do you spend with your family, compared to the time you spend on the internet—Facebook, WhatsApp, twitter, Instagram, etc?
4. In terms of violence, the number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school, is eight thousand (8,000). By the time he is eighteen, he has seen two hundred thousand (200,000) murders on tube, etc. easy to murder then murder.
5. In terms of commercialism, the number of TV commercials seen in a year by an average child is twenty thousand (20,000).
So what about all these? These things are shaping and moulding the mental image of the world.
6. According to STATISTICA, by this year 2017, over a third of the world’s population is projected to own a Smartphone, an estimated total of almost 2.6 billion Smartphone users in the world.
As old as the moving picture or photography may be, the impact of its image upon society is still unfolding today. Images are now shot or viewed virtually everywhere, from cell phones to computers, surveillance cameras and a whole host of other media devices.
Consider that you are already likely to be caught on Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) at least several times a day if you are out shopping (most Super markets have CCTV), as do key traffic intersections and highways. One surveillance camera for every 11 people in Britain, says a 2014 CCTV survey.
With websites proliferating such as YouTube where people can post short videos of themselves or on virtually any topic of interest, everybody can be on display; we use and process images virtually everywhere and anytime. Is it therefore unreasonable to conclude that visual images are the things clogging our minds today?
From every direction, the human eye is being lured by images and their potentially influential messages. My point is that this communication medium barraging us with worldly values (imbedded in both real and un-real images, true and false), are what determine the thinking of many of us!
There is so much falsehood being peddled which we assume as truth. Worse still, it goes a step further in raising an emotion to react to those things, and that is where the danger lies. For example, there was a recent post on WhatsApp of a lady who has throwing dollars bills in the air while she danced, dressed so inappropriately. The video claimed the lady to be Governor Ajimobi’s daughter; but it was false! Yet people were already reacting, and raining curses on Governor Ajimobi.
Another so called video was Bishop Oyedepo’s “supposed” reaction to the killing of Christians in Southern Kaduna State. But the truth is that that was an old video, which was recorded at the emergence of the Boko Haram insurgency, about five years ago! But look at how the video was circulated as though it was a direct response to the killings that was going on in Southern Kaduna. And many Christians believed it without question; and I dare say that some would have cast stones against the servant of God.
Thirdly, there was a horrendous video of a sawn up human being, telling people to stop eating “suya”, that the Hausas now use human flesh for ‘suya’ meat. And people just believe it! That is the basis of my distress and my disappointment. How can a people who have been taught fall prey to this gimmick of Satan? We need to step back some and look at things from the word of God so that we don’t fall away. I am appalled at the high level of hate messages being posted by “Christians”.
Brethren, this image culture today opens up mankind to greater vulnerability and to perceptual deception. Images can powerfully manipulate our emotions and perceptions, hampering our ability to interpret facts and truths. Thus, believers are been stirred up by these images to react against the word of God, thereby falling prey to the spirit of apostasy. What is going on? How so easily are we swept in the wrong direction by such fabricated images? You say you are believers, but you are apostates, because you turn the word of God upside down!
Apostasy is defined as:
1. The abandonment or renunciation of the truth revealed or the faith; or
2. When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel; or
3. Defection from the faith, an act of unpardonable rebellion against God and His truth or the abandonment of Christian doctrine and conduct.
Apostasy stands on two legs—the popularly known deception (2 Peter 2:1-2; Jude 3a); and Persecution—people can be forced to turn away from the faith in the face of persecution; (there are those whose faith could not pass the test of Hebrews 11:33-36). But the question we need to ask ourselves is “what should the force of persecution do to us?”
Recently, it was alleged that Archbishop Onayekun said that Pastors should now bear arms! And I dare say, to do what, to fight and to kill? Where did we get that from? Is that the pattern we see in the Scriptures? Were the apostles not persecuted? Was Stephen and Apostle James not killed? Was Peter not also to be killed before the church began to pray for Him? They responded with prayers; strong communal prayers is God’s response to the kinds of Persecutions we are in!
I am distressed and I hurt about the mindless killing and pillage of our brethren and churches in northern Nigeria but what did the Lord promise the true believer? How did He say we should respond to persecution¬? He already told us that we would be persecuted (Matthew 10:21-24; 33-39). How did the Lord handle the emotional outburst from Peter in the garden of Gethsemane when the Lord’s life was in play? Jesus never endorsed Peter’s reaction of using a sword; He warned him that those who kill by the sword shall perish by it. (See Matthew 26:50-52; Luke 17:33; 22:50-52 and John 12:23-25). Let us be careful that we do not fall prey to the things we were forewarned over 1 John 4:5.
We have no excuse to fail to reason from the written word of God first, and also as the Holy Spirit may instruct. If from the point of emotional reaction you reject these principles, you are an apostate while you still claim to be a believer! When church leaders are being quoted as suggesting that pastors should carry arms or that their congregation should be ready to kill, there is a problem. They will not only be guilty of leading God’s sheep astray, the arms of flesh will also fail, because we do not wrestle with such arms.
In John 16:33, the Lord Jesus said, “…In the world ye shall have tribulation…” If perhaps the instructions of the Lord appear so distant, how did the early church leaders in the book of Acts deal with deadly persecution?
1. By communal prayers—Acts 4:21-31, Acts 5:17-42; Acts 12. Just as in the days of the early Christians, whenever we are faced with an opposition or challenge, we must pray to God for help, to receive boldness and power to fulfill His purpose.
2. By fleeing—Acts 8:1; when praying did not work, they fled. Just like them, we ought also to flee when prayer seems not to work, than to bear arms to fight.
3. Some truly gave their lives or the lives of their loved ones. Hebrews 11:33-40. In other words, they took persecution in good faith and held their peace when their loved ones were killed.
Where have we kept these words of God? What has happened to Christendom and the Church leadership in Nigeria (CAN, PFN, etc) who are becoming politically correct instead of being scripturally correct, all because we are been afflicted from the barrage of information via images that we see?
Years ago Pastor Dele spoke about subliminal marketing. 95% of consumers are more likely to buy a product because of a visual image or a photograph. Taking in information through graphic images involves a very different mental process than through the written word—the mind has a photographic capacity of its own. Studies have shown that “brain images” can subconsciously affect our perceptions and interpretations even of written text. It is indeed a documented fact that graphic images, whether moving or stationary, have very powerful and unique impacts upon perception. Images can have emotional or cognitive effects that the viewer may not ever realize. As such, they can be an effective medium for manipulation and deception. Is it then any wonder that the false prophet mentioned in the book of Revelation uses an image to deceive the world? (Please read Revelation 13:13-18).
Haven’t you seen the moving image of President Donald Trump, Photoshop to say things he never said, through the gimmick of image technology? Brethren, things have gone beyond using persuasive images to sell coke or shoes, to wholesale propagation of misinformation that stirs societal unrest! How many believers are being worked up emotionally into taking the laws into their hands! I am appalled at the hate messages being posted in supposedly Christian social media groups that I wonder what’s coming to the minds of believers so called!
If a religious war starts in this country do you think you will be spared? Many of you are young and have no memories of the civil war but you don’t want to see another one! It is time to stand up and contend in prayers as we have been taught, not to become pawns in the hands of the devil and ill-informed church leaders.
HOW GOD COMMUNICATES:
The Bible seems to have anticipated our last-day era, communicating in graphic form much of the last-day prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled. There is little doubt that our generation is being prepared to be deceived by images—ultimately by the images of the beast. However, at the same time, God allowed it to be so that our intensely “image conscious” generation would also be ideally equipped to understand end-time prophecy.
Let us first review the main form of God’s communication to mankind—the written word. God chose to mainly communicate His truth and revelation to most of mankind through written communication. If pictures and moving images had been the more reliable means for mankind to study, interpret and contemplate scriptures, would God not have used this technique instead?
At creation, would He not have designed it that images would be the main form of communication rather than speech and writing? Though a picture may claim to represent a thousand words, the fact is that images alone are inadequate for all communication and are far too unreliable for literal and precise interpretation of truths and facts. Therefore, instead, we were given the written scriptures. But just how did the scriptures come to be recorded? How were prophecies revealed? Indeed, God did write the 10 commandments on 2 tablets and gave them to Moses … twice!
Yet, with a few exceptions, all of the original impartations of revelation were not in written form, but rather visual or aural or both (though not necessarily in the physical sense of being actually seen or heard). They received visions and dreams—Numbers 12:6. While we may think that the moving picture (the movie) was an invention of the late 1890s, in reality a form of video communication had already been invented by God a long time ago. God used visions to communicate with His prophets. We see that the Holy Spirit frequently used “neural movies” to impart the content and meaning of much prophecy. Many (if not all) of the major prophets mentioned in the Bible—both old and New Testament—experienced either visions or dreams.
a. Consider that virtually the entire book of Revelation is the product of a vision. Apostle John wrote down what he saw and heard;
b. In the book of Zechariah, 5 chapters consisted of 8 separate visions; and
c. Other prophets expressly received prophecy in visual form. Examples abound—Ezekiel 1:1, Genesis 15:1; Jeremiah 1:11 and Genesis 46:2 just to cite a few.
Why did God give visions and dreams to the prophets when the written word (scripture) was the intended form of communication to following generations? A two-stage process was involved. The prophets saw visions and then accurately wrote down what they heard and saw. In a sense, they served as ancient “high fidelity” media players. The writing down of these visions was guided by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). What we see then is that God, many times, chose to impart revelations in the form of images, then to be written down in words, and not pictures.
Why? For one, God was able to show the prophets things of the future for which adequate words to describe them did not yet exist. Moreover, visions and the symbols could contain much more information than could be understood through hearing. No doubt there are other reasons. However, we observe a significant fact: a high proportion of prophecies and the greater volume of information that applies to the latter days—the very last of the last days and the events of the great tribulation—were given in the form of “image-rich” visions.
Why should God have chosen to communicate more of His prophecies to later generations such as ours, in visions that are full of symbols and imagery? Could it be true that God knew that our “last day” generation would be an “image conscious” society, one highly attuned to communication through images? As such, it is our generation that has the suitable aptitude to understand and interpret the visions and dreams described in the Bible better than any other.
While, on the one hand, our age of visual communications opens up our world to greater manipulation and deception, it also gives this generation the means to better understand prophecy. It is beginning to feel like the social media is satan’s copying gimmick at work again. God used vision-rich communication for end-times instructions, and satan also has sprung on the social media laden with cropped images to support heinous propaganda that is trapping the undiscerning—Revelation 11:9-10. We should be contending and nullifying everything that satan is posting through social media, rather than being swept along with it. Am I therefore saying do not use social media? No and no and no! To do that is to fail to understand our need to contend for the faith. I will say that you strictly stay within the confines of its use as a platform for the gospel! However, any social media group that has no strong spiritual leadership to watch over it and guide discussions in full scriptural accuracy is a poison chalice. Get out of there!
At a time that God is raising His army in the battle of the last hour, don’t be found on the other side!