Since we resumed this series, we have discussed philosophy, science and, lately, we have been on religion, trying to examine how well all these have fared in making life more abundant for us in the coarse material plane.
Philosophy tries to bring rationality to life's phenomena, science has an edge in devising instruments to soothing the effects of our stay in the world, while religion is conceptualised to unite us back to our Creator. What we have, however, discovered is that religion itself has become generally limiting. This is because some of its practitioners have settled for the external aspect of religion.
By so doing, we are unwittingly being made to believe the transcendent experience recorded in various scriptures are exclusive to the Prophets of the days of yore. How grossly misplaced such perception is!
Christ said; If you have faith as small as mustard seed, you will command a mountain to move and it will. In effect, the faith or power for wonders is not limited to the few, it is open to any being who can develop himself to make such truly happen, not the fake or make-believe wonders being daily performed by the challatant-pastors.
On the TV, we have witnessed the blind regaining their sights,the crippled throwing away their crutches and all that, but no one has been able to point at any of those "healed" people in the areas they live, whose sight was restored or cured of crippling. I hope we are not ruffling feathers.
Before proceeding, I must express regrets that on the matter of religion, while I am disposed to discussing most of the religions that abound in the world, I am constrained because of the bias of the readers in this part of the world. Only Christianity and Islam among numberless religions prevalent in the world would make meaning to them. Worse still, traditional religion is regarded as paganism that we wouldn't want to touch with the longest pole.
One would be deemed to be talking Greek if I have to take the readers through Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, Upanishads and other numerous religions; yet, we need ideas, however faint, of their modes of worship - otherwise, we are scarcely better than the frog in the well, which metaphor I had used in the penultimate message.
Another challenge I am confronted with is the knack to make more reference to Jesus in trying to drive home some of the points. I may not have to concede to any apology for this inclination because of the targeted audience. There are other Saints that taught the same Word of God before and after Jesus, but they are little known in this divide. To cite them, I would need as I do with the Bible, to refer the readers to their scriptures which are not readily available in Nigeria and so, Jesus comes handy as well as the Bible.
Apart from this, a study of Jesus teachings revealed One with unquestionable authority and having direct contact with the Father-Lord. While a good number of Saints merely imagined the Kingdom of God, Jesus actually described what it is and severally in the Bible, He gave us conditions and methods for accessing it. Whether the Priestly class still knows or teaches the methods is left to the imagination of the readers.
For instance, last week we briefly touched on the matter of being born again. This is one main condition for meriting the Kingdom of God. The word “born again” appears to have surfaced in the Bible for the first time when Jesus engaged Nicodemus in the book of John.
Nicodemus was a high-ranking member of the Pharisees, a ruler of the Jews and a well respected “master” of Israel. Nicodemus was not hostile to Jesus as most of the Pharisees were. He, being an enlightened soul to a certain degree, recognized that Jesus was from God and wanted to hear what Jesus had to say.
Because of his position in the society, he stealthily went to Jesus under the cover of darkness to make enquiries about the Kingdom of God. During the ensuing encounter, Jesus was quoted in John 3:3 to have said to Nicodemus; Verily verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
In utter amazement, Nicodemus exclaimed: “How can a man be born again when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be re-born.” But Christ insists: “Verily I say unto thee, expect a man be born of the Holy Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
In this conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, Jesus made it unambiguous that for us to merit the Kingdom of God we must be born again. No other means about it. The question that arises therefrom is: How are we born again? Naturally, to one that is devoid of spiritual experience to be born again seems impossible.
Even, Nicodemus who was adjudged to be a great leader in his own right and a well acclaimed man of formal religion reacted, as any worldly man would, when he asked Jesus: How could this be? One cannot return to the womb and be reborn.
Never! Nicodemus argued doltishly. But Jesus spoke from a position of certainty. He told Nicodemus that he was confusing physical rebirth with a spiritual rebirth. With a physical rebirth it may be impossible for us to re-enter our mother’s womb and be re-born, but a spiritual rebirth is a different kettle of fish altogether.
Jesus then expressed the same concept in plain language when He says, that which is born of the flesh is of the flesh, and which is born of the Spirit is of the Spirit. Christ was pointing out that as human beings we are in the flesh thus; we are born of the flesh.To return to the Lord we need to shun the things of the flesh and be born of the Spirit. This is the new birth He speaks of. Being born of the Spirit means to be born through devotion to the Word or the Holy Ghost. They all depict the same thing. The inference from all these is that the whole concept of being born again refers to a spiritual birth and nothing else.
What is instructive is that John the Baptist as a necessity baptized Jesus Himself. Why should he? This is for a future edition.
In John 3:9 we read: Nicodemus answered and said unto him How can these things be? And in John 3:10. Jesus answered and said unto him, “art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”
That means, Nicodemus was astonished and asked, how possible? Although he was a pedagogue of Israel, he had only been performing rituals and ceremonies. His worship had all the while been superficial, limited to external observances of rules and ceremonies. He had not had any spiritual experience within himself. He had made no contact with the Word - the Spirit of God within.
Apparently, the mystic truth about the Kingdom of God had been lost to the people of that time as it is today, even though Moses and some of the biblical prophets who had been mystics themselves taught the same truths. Not until the time of John the Baptist and Jesus had anyone come to the level of the people Jesus ministered to, to revive the same original and timeless Truth, which the Hebrews had received from Moses, but had lost over the years.
Nicodemus held the exalted office of a learned religious leader and was also perceived by the people of Israel as a spiritually enlightened person, to be sought after for their spiritual needs. Alas, the real spiritual path to God was lost to him and to the priests of that time; yet, people rallied to them for succour, as we are generally doing at present, to some of the religious "actors" parading themselves among the priestly class, who may even be worse off than Nicodemus.
Is this not a case of the blind leading the blind?
In no unmistaken language, Jesus said in John 3:12: “Verily, verily I say unto thee, we speak that we know and testify that we have seen, and ye receive not our witness”. If I have told you earthly things and you believe not, how shall you believe if I speak of heavenly things.
The meaning of this is that things of the world we don't generally believe, how could we then believe heavenly things that we have not experienced. This underscores the essence of experience. In laying emphasis further on what will avail for us on the day of reckoning, the Messiah is brought in again in Matthew 6 vs 19 - 21: “Lay not your treasures upon the face of the earth where thieves break through and moth doth corrupt. But lay your treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Where lies our treasure there our hearts will be brings us to the purpose of it all. The purpose of human life.
Why have we taken birth? It is to free our souls from the shackles of the negative power. This is achievable by laying where they would matter our treasures. This is only true living - a rebirth into the spiritual realm, the reservation of a place where we will stay after this life. If we fail to make a preparation or "booking" in heaven, where do we go after death, other than to continue outside heaven - in a purgatory plane under the domain of the negative power.
Regretfully, we seem to be in forgetfulness. Thus, we are occupying ourselves with trying to make the world a haven. Unfortunately, this wasn't in the grand design of the Creator and were it not, all the Saints especially the Messiah would have long before now created a Shangri-La in the earthly field. The harsh fact is that it will never happen.
For correlation, Christ said in Matthew 10 vs 34-36 to wit; “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against his mother, a daughter in law against mother in law. For a man enemies shall be they of his own household.”
To tie up the above verse, Luke 14 vs 26 comes handy. It says: “If any man comes to me and he hates not his father and mother, his wife and children, brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life, such a person cannot be my disciple.
Expectedly, the ordinary people who are barely of intellect could not grasp the spiritual meaning of all these sayings of the Messiah. It was recorded that on the account of the hard sayings, Jesus lost a good number of the followers - not the chosen disciples though.
We will make these sayings comprehensible to all and sundry next week.
On a parting note, I will like to sign off by sharing a thought on the issue of worry. One of the amusing advices we hear daily is that we should not worry. We offer this advice as if worry is a garment that could be put on and off at our fancy.
For crying out loud, worry is a state of mind and the only solution for it is clear thinking. Otherwise, how do we get someone not to worry, if he or she is contending with failing health, business not doing well, inability to make ends meet, defaulting in payment of salary, children's school fees, rents, child's truancy, unable to maintain his 20 year old car let alone replacing it and other life's challenges?
The followers of Prophet Mohammed (SAW) asked him should they bother to tie the legs of their camels, if the Lord is to take care of them? The Prophet answer was, your duty is to primarily tie up your camels before expecting the Lord to protect them for you.
Similarly, with life's challenges. God loves and wants our efforts. With clear thinking, we will come to the understanding that ours is to do all necessary things to minimize life's tragedies and having done that, we are to leave the results of our efforts in the hands of God. Wth clear thinking again we will come to the understanding that whatever happens or would happen could only be in concurrence with the Lord's will.
It is only after we have done our bits that we shouldn't worry because worry itself is effeminacy and it depicts lack of faith in God who has not created the world and lost the control of it.
With clear thinking, we will, in retrospect, know that we have caused what we are going through currently, and what will happen to us tomorrow is contingent on our current choices. This will enable us choose wisely and go through the inviolable law of karma cheerfully, for it could have been worse. The Lord is merciful. He doesn't give us too much a weight we can’t carry.
Above all, life does not really worth the worry. It begins in folly and ends in smoke. Its middle portion also passes away. It has to come to an end one day whether we like it or not.