Metro

One, two, many gods (1) – By Femi Aribisala

I went to buy blank videotapes in a van that had Christian VideoNet emblazoned on both sides. Immediately I came out of the van, an Indian man engaged me in a friendly conversation. Soon he was talking to me about “Our Lord.”

My immediate reaction was: “Which Lord is this man talking about? What makes him think that my Lord is his Lord?”

My thinking was that whatever Lord this friendly Indian man was talking about; it cannot be my Lord Jesus Christ.

  “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3)

My new Indian friend kept on chatting, and he was curiously smiling at me. And then it hit me. When I think Indian, I think Hindu. But this Indian man was not a Hindu. That was what he had been trying to communicate to me. This Indian man was a Christian.

Forgive me for having such a one-track mind. On an earlier occasion, I had met another Indian man. He was clearly not a Christian, but I soon got the impression that he was in the marketplace for a new religion. He did not wait for me to witness to him. Having seen the insignia on the van, he wanted me to tell him about Christianity. But then he had some vital questions he wanted cleared up right at the beginning.

“Your religion,” he asked, “does it allow you to drink alcohol?”

“Yes,” I replied expansively, “we even drink wine in church.”

“Wonderful, wonderful,” said my Indian friend, brightening up. Then he asked: “How many gods do you have?”

I was a bit slow on the uptake and did not quite understand what he was getting at. “What do you mean how many gods do I have?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes, yes,” the man replied, without any hint of mischief. “How many gods do you have?”

“I have only one God,” I said marvelling at him.

And then I understood why. He was shopping for another god. This man was quite simply a “god collector.”

“Only one?” he asked in disbelief. “You have only one God?”

“Well, yes,” I replied, now defensive. “I have only one God.”

The man shook his head in a way that said eloquently: “Forget it.” What is the point of a religion where you only have one God? That is simply too risky. What if He happens to be busy at any given time?

Dear Reader, how many gods do you have? Do you even know all of them? Many of us do not even realise that we serve other gods. Our predicament is similar to that of the biblical nation of Israel:

They feared the LORD yet served their own gods- according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. (2 Kings 17:33).

He is the God who took us out of the land of Egypt. He parted the Red Sea and we walked through on dry ground. 600 Egyptian chariots and horses chased us when God delivered us from Egypt and from Pharaoh. And yet all of them ended up at the bottom of the Red Sea.

So why would we, after such a glorious experience, trust in the same horses and chariots which brought the Egyptians to grief?

The message should be clear. God saves by faith alone. He who has Jesus has all the protection he needs. He does not need chariots and horses. God says:

“I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.” (Hosea 1:7).

Nevertheless, the Bible records that Solomon had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen. (1 Kings 10:26).

My nephew had an urgent question to ask me. “Uncle Femi,” he said, “does God not like His children to save money?”

He had been having some difficulty with the Holy Spirit. Every time he built up a tidy nest egg, the Lord would come up with a project that would wipe it all off. He was becoming frustrated. He just did not seem to have any money put away for the rainy day.

“God does not like His children to rely on money,” I said to him. “He wants His children to depend solely on Him. It would appear that, in your case, when you build up a savings you start to rely on the money instead of relying on God.”

You can put burglar-proofing on your door but do not rely on it. It can be cut like paper. You can buy life insurance policies but do not put your hope in them. The insurance company itself can collapse. You can not have a godfather. Neither can you have a “sugar daddy.” And you can never go to Egypt for help. (Isaiah 31:1).

So, tell me please; how can we fight Goliath if we have no weapons? Do not even bother trying to put on the armour of Saul. The weapons of our warfare are not man-made, but they have divine power to pull down strongholds. (2 Corinthians10:4).

How would we kill Goliath? “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord. (Zechariah 4:6). How would we pay our school fees? How would we meet our life partners? How would we get promoted in our jobs? Neither by might nor by power but by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus revealed to us that God is spirit. This means He is invisible and immaterial. He is not flesh and blood. Since God is a spirit, worship must be spiritual. Once we make an image, it is no longer spiritual worship. Therefore, God insists that we make no likeness of Him.

The LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words but saw no form; you only heard a voice. (Deuteronomy 4:12).

Once we have to relate to something physical, be it a rosary or a beautiful carving of Jesus, it is no longer spiritual worship; it is physical worship. Note that the children of Israel worshipped the brass serpent that Moses made, calling it Nehushtan. (2 Kings 18:4).

Christianity is not the service about an altar of stone or wood but about the human heart and life. It is not the service of Sunday best clothes, but of the garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3). and the robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10). It is not the service of drums, saxophones, and organs, but of making melody in our hearts to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:19).

Spiritual worship means keeping oneself unspotted from the world by living holy godly lives. (James 1:27).

But frankly, faith is a big problem for a lot of Christians. It is so unreal. We want a God we can see: a God we can touch. And so, we make a calf and say it is the God that brought us out of Egypt. But we just made the calf, so how can it be God? Or, we want a king like all the others. But is God not our king? No! We want a king who is flesh and blood.

And so, we not only weary men but we also weary God as well. We provoke the Holy One of Israel to anger. God says: “Samuel, tell them what a king will do to them. Tell them a king will sell them and their children into slavery.”

But we are not impressed. It does not matter. We still want a king. Everybody else has one, and we would like to be like everybody else.

The man who looks unto the hills is the man who does not know God. The man who looks unto the hills is the man who does not know where his help is going to come from. He has many gods and has so many helpers. But the man who has God knows his salvation is coming from the only true God.

Truly, in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains; truly, in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. (Jeremiah 3:23).

Even the psalmist who was initially looking to the hills soon realised the error of his ways:

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalms 121:2).

Our help does not come from the lord who is the Governor of the Central Bank. It does not come from the lord who is the Managing Director of First Bank. It comes from “the Lord of all lords” and “the King of kings:” The Lord who made heaven and earth.

Sometimes we pray just to fulfil all righteousness. And after we have prayed, we come back to our senses and have panic attacks.

Joy’s son was going back to the United States from Nigeria. He had an American passport and a Nigerian passport simultaneously. He came in with his Nigerian passport, which meant he did not have a Nigerian visa. But if he tried to leave with his Nigerian passport, they would require him to show a visa for his destination, the United States. That would mean he would have to show his American passport.

But dual nationality had been suspended in Nigeria. If he showed his American passport, they would ask him how he got into the country without a Nigerian visa.

It was a “Catch 22” situation. Joy took the matter to God and asked for His help. Then she went to the airport with her son. But on getting there she had a panic attack. She started looking for other gods to help her. Perhaps there was someone she knew who could help her? Perhaps if she spoke politely to the immigration official he would overlook the matter? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

But what does the word of God say?

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7).

But Joy was anxious about everything, and she had no peace. Finally, the Holy Spirit spoke: “Did you not ask me for help? So why are you still anxious?”

Suddenly, she stood there in the middle of the airport terminal apologising to the Holy Spirit. She had scarcely finished praying her apologies when someone called her name.

“Professor Ogwu, is that you?” She looked up to see this distinguished military officer standing in front of her with a big grin on his face.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“My son is travelling to the United States.”

“Where is he?” the man asked taking charge.

He took charge so completely that he ushered him past immigration and literally onto the plane. Problem solved.

When Joy told her husband what had happened, he was unimpressed. “It was just a coincidence,” he insisted. Coincidence my foot!  God is not a coincidental God.

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