Saturday, August 19, 2017

Wake-up Call for the Church [extracts] - by Pastor Agu Irukwu

Anyone who is an observer of things would certainly tell that we are definitely coming close to the end of the ages. There is an unprecedented battle that is underway for the souls of nations..
Sometime in 930 BC toward the end of Solomon’s reign, the nation of Israel entered into spiritual decay like it had never done in its history. The whole nation degenerated. The pursuit of materialism held sway, idolatory began to take over the land, and that state of affairs so made God angry.  King after king competed with themselves to outdo each other in evil; and a refrain that you will read is how one king did more evil than the other king.  Finally, there arrives on the scene a king called Ahab. He married a young lady called Jezebel, she was the daughter of the king of Sidonia, a man called Ethbaal, the prophet of Baal. They took the evil that existed to another level. Darkness really ruled the nation. The worship of Baal became common-place.  A state religion imposed on the nation. The worship of God was chased out of public life. The Bible testifies that by that time the prophets of God were in hiding.  It was a clear strategy from the pit of hell. This woman Jezebel took control of her husband Ahab, and she had one agenda on her mind, and the agenda was to erase the worship of Jehovah in the land. The agenda was to impose immorality as the order of the day.  The agenda was to make sure that there was no worship of the God of Israel. But where I was going, as the nation descended into that level of darkness; as it seemed like God had lost the battle, we read in I kings 17:1 God’s response. And what was God’s response? God’s response was to raise up a man called Elijah.  
And what is significant about Elijah? Elijah was God’s response to degeneration. God’s response to decay. God’s response to darkness. God’s response to immorality. Elijah was God’s response to apostasy.  Elijah was God’s response to a plan of the enemy to seize a nation and pervert God’s plan for the nation.
It’s interesting that the Bible talks a bit more about Elijah. In Mathew 17: 11-12, Jesus answered them and said to them “Indeed Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer in their hands.”

He says Elijah is coming first, and he will come with the mandate to restore all things. And so a singular Elijah came, called out by God from obscurity to confront the evil of the day and to save the nation of Israel. Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks about another Elijah that is coming. And that Elijah comes with a mandate of restoration. He also goes on in Luke 1:17 to say to us concerning Elijah. “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the LORD.”  Of course He was speaking about John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and the power of Elijah. So there was first, Elijah the prophet.  But then there was another Elijah that came in the spirit and in the power of Elijah.  And that Elijah was a fore-runner to our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ’s coming.

Where am I going?   It would seem very clear to me that just before Jesus comes, just before a great move of God, just before God steps in to rescue a nation, or nations, there must be someone who comes in the spirit and the power of Elijah.

What is this spirit of Elijah? There are 6 things: Faith, Prayer, A commitment to the Word, a Zealousness for God, Holiness, and a demonstration of Power.  Put this at the back of your mind: there must be a person or people who come with the spirit and power of Elijah as a precursor to a move of God.

I want to share a bit about the United Kingdom. The state of things in the United Kingdom. If the truth be told, things are bad. Things are challenging. We have seen the move of an aggressive secularism that wants to take the worship of God out of public life. We have seen our leaders embarrassed and forced to resign simply because of their faith. We have seen and see an attempt by another faith to wrest control of the nation, to seize the soul of the nation. We really are seeing some challenging and dark times in the United Kingdom We have seen churches closed, On the last account 500 churches in and around London closed and 480 mosques were planted in their stead. We have seen laws that are so ungodly passed. Policies that we know are so ungodly passed.  Some of them…. it is impossible to imagine that such things can happen. We are now dealing with the issue of genders and transgenders. It’s being taken out of a lot of our literature the reference to male and female, because it is assumed that there is some middle ground that is neither male nor female. And that is official. And so things are dark in the United kingdom.
But then, I wouldn’t say it’s any different from here. It might not be the same expression, but then we look round at the state of things here in Nigeria, we see the rabid corruption that led our former Prime Minister to describe it as fantastically corrupt.  Of course we all protested; but in our hearts we knew there was an element of truth in what he was saying. We see the blatant use of the government’s machinery in some places to advance the agenda of one faith over another.  We read about how our curriculum for our children has been hijacked so that any reference to the deity of Christ has been removed. We look around at some parts of the Church and we marvel that this is the Church of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We hear about the killing that is taking place in some parts of the country. The persecution of Christians. The kidnapping of young girls and them being forced to convert to other faith.   We are amazed that we all sat back and the learning of Arabic was made compulsory in our schools. 
And I can go on and on and on, but you get the picture. What I’m trying to say is that it’s no different here.  It’s no different in the Middle East.  It’s no different in North America. It is no different in South America.  It is clear that the kingdom of darkness is marching on and has an agenda, and the agenda is to push back the Church, and to seize the high ground.

We asked ourselves in the UK, How did we get into this state? How did we allow this to happen? 

How did we find ourselves in this state? How did we find ourselves in a state where the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is supposed to occupy until He comes, in a lot of instances is just barely  surviving?  How did we find ourselves in a state where the prophet‘s description, In Isaiah, the 60th chapter, of deep darkness over the people and darkness covering the earth?  How did we find ourselves in a place where the laws are changed, the policies are changed?  How did we find ourselves in a place where the organs of government are used to advance policies that are clearly against the Church?  We find ourselves in this place because while men slept, the enemy came and sowed tares. We find ourselves in this place because, if the truth be told, the church has been asleep.  Yes, we have made gains. Yes, we have planted churches, yes there has been some progress, but then this is a family meeting, and we can afford to be truthful to ourselves. If the truth be told, the Church slept while the enemy made gains.  
Let us not forget that the nations of Turkey and Syria were once Christian nations.  An enemy has done this. An enemy did it while the Church was complacent.  And today, if there is anything that I say, I will like to challenge us out of that complacency, much the same way that I challenged myself out of that complacency.

And maybe the Prophet Amos might do a better job of this than me.  In Amos 6:1, he says “Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and who trust in Mount Samaria, notable persons in the chief nations to whom the house of Israel comes.” 

Amos could easily have been speaking to Church leaders today.  Woe to you who are at ease in Zion.   Those who are complacent.  Those who don’t see the signs of the time.  Those who don’t understand that if we are not advancing, the enemy is advancing   Those who don’t fully understand that we can’t stay stationary in this battle.    Those who don’t understand that if we don’t take ground the enemy is taking ground.  Notable persons in the chief nation, he says “woe to you

He paints a graphic picture of a leadership, of a nation, that does not understand that the position of complacency they’ve taken is to give the enemy ground.  I could paraphrase his message in modern words like these:  Woe to the politicians in church. Woe to the sycophants in church. Woe to those who specialize in insincerity and call it wisdom. Woe to those who are consumed by personal ambition. Woe to the purveyors of pettiness. Woe to the agents of distraction. Woe to those who would not release people into their call but suppress them instead. Woe to those who cannot discern the times and the seasons. Woe to those who cannot hear the trumpet call for war. Woe to those who try to drown out God’s voice with their own voices. Woe to those who are playing Church, instead of being the Church.  Woe to those who are focused on an honorarium, instead of the mandate. Woe to meaningless conferences and meetings, while the enemy is gaining ground.  Woe to those who reduce a sacred calling to a job.  Woe to those who see our calling as a means of earning a living.
Woe to those who judge their success by the cars we drive or the sizes of our church, not the fulfilment of our call. Woe to those who abuse positions of power and authority. And woe to those who are not grieved by the state of the Church, by the state of the decomposing  and decaying society.
If we don’t do something, not only are we toying with our captivity, we are consigning our children to a lifetime of captivity,
And believe me, God will judge us. 
How did we end up here?  We ended up here because we played Church. We became politicians of an ecclesiastical nature. We specialized and majored in pettiness and distractions.  We built empires , we said we were building churches. And maybe we did, but we didn’t understand that to build a church is the first stage in building the Kingdom of God. 
But thank God, we don’t believe in a natural God!  But we believe in a supernatural God. That’s the only thing that gives us hope. That God can do the impossible. We look back to the early Church, we find them in a similar place. Maybe even worse than we are. And we see a move of God that turned the whole of the world right side up. We dare to believe in that God, that He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. So even though in a natural sense, we might be too late, but thank God! God is not natural! 
We understand clearly, at least I have come to understand, that it must be a move of the spirit of God. The words of the prophet Zachariah resonate: In Zech 4:6 – Not by might, not by intellect, not by persuasion, not by size, not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord of Hosts.  
To be used by God, there are a few things that are absolutely critical.  
Number one, you must even be aware of the problem. And you will be amazed at the amount of ignorance that exists in the body of Christ.  I see it every day where I serve.  Good Christians who are unaware, who can’t, like the sons of Issachar, read the time and seasons.  Good Christians who imagine that just attending church is all that matters. Not realizing that the enemy is making progress. My brother and my sister, please lift up your eyes from your own circumstances. Look up from your own challenges. And look around you and see how the enemy is taking ground at the expense of the Kingdom of God.  You have to be aware of the problem.
For God to use you, you have to be burdened. Nehemiah the first chapter says this about Nehemiah ( in the third verse): “the survivors who are left of the captivity in the Province are there in great distress and reproach.  The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.  And so it was, Jerusalem said, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept and mourned for many days.  I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven..”  The news came to Nehemiah, the survivors are in great distress and reproach.  My sister, look around you, the nations are in great distress. The Church of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is suffering reproach in so many sectors. This Bride of Christ is being abused and scorned. There is an attempt to castrate the Church. My sister look up from your problem, my brother look up from your challenge. Don’t let the enemy play a trick on you where the focus becomes yourself. We are here for more than ourselves. What a tragedy if we live this life just for ourselves! 
He says the wall of Jerusalem is also broken down and its gates are burned with fire.  That sentence was driven into our hearts by the Spirit of God.  The walls of the United Kingdom are broken down, its gates are burned with fire.  This is the nation that took the gospel to the far-flung parts of the world. This is a nation that had a church on every single street, literally. This is a nation of John Wesley, this is a nation of William Booth. This is a nation that sent young missionaries who came out of Oxford and Cambridge, and they came to Africa knowing that they would most likely die from malaria; but the fire that was burning in their bones won’t let them sit down with their degrees from Oxford and Cambridge; they had to preach the gospel. And yet this is a nation that we look at and we said to ourselves, the walls are destroyed, they are broken down, the gates are burned with fire. 
Look around you at the nation where you find yourself, the story is probably the same.  And when Nehemiah heard these things, life couldn’t continue as normal.  My brother, my sister, there is no “normal” life anymore. Someone said to me in England , “you are possessed”, I said absolutely, I am now possessed by one mission and one mission alone. I live it, I breath I, I sleep it – that’s all I do, I have nothing else to do!  My success in life will be judged whether that nation goes to the enemy or not. Not by the large church that I am priviledged to pastor. No, we’ve left that behind. We are now contending for the soul of the nation. Because if you hear the news, life can’t continue as normal. You can’t hear that a brother or a sister is being killed in Southern Zaria and life continues as normal. You can’t hear that a 14 year old girl was kidnapped and forced to convert and then life continues as normal. You can’t see some of the billboards that we see advertising things that have nothing to do with church and yet ending with the name “church”, and life continues as normal. You can’t watch the Church being emasculated and strangulated and life continues as normal. If life continues as normal, there is something that’s wrong somewhere. 
Nehemiah said “I sat down, I couldn’t continue.”  I looked around, at the immorality that is rife and it stopped me in my tracks.  It was so heavy, Nehemiah said, I wept and I mourned. My brother, I want to ask you when was the last time you wept in prayer over the nation you find yourself in? Enough of this psychedelic prayers! Enough of this oratory, enough of us praying so that we sound good in people’s ears! When was the last time a congregation wept because they looked at the state of the nation and thought, “God, how did it come to this?”
He said, “I didn’t just weep,” he said, “I mourned. It was so heavy on my soul it led me to mourning.”  Have you mourned for Nigeria? Have you mourned for Cameroon? Have you mourned for Zambia, have you mourned for Kenya? Have you mourned for Canada? Has it stopped you in your tracks? Have you said to yourself, I have no other life! 
He said “I mourned for many days,” and then he said, “I was led to fasting and prayed before the God of heaven.” The weight of circumstances is not supposed to paralyse us. It’s supposed to drive us to our knees in prayer and to fasting so that the God of the supernatural can move on our behalf. I understand very clearly, John Knox’s phrase, when Queen Mary of Scotland was ruling. I understand clearly, how John Knox would kneel down and say to God “Give me Scotland, or I die!”  My sister, do you have a burden?  If you don’t, then what church are you in? 
Number three.  To be used by God, there must be sacrifice. A friend of mine has a favourite phrase. It says the heavens belong to the highest bidder.  Of course, the work is finished.  It was finished at the Cross of Calvary. It was finished so that we can enter His rest. Yes, of course I agree theologically, that is sound. But don’t believe all these crazy message that is going around. God expects us to do something. When “they” fast, “they fast”.  When we fast, half of us are not fasting. And those who are, will drink and eat in-between the fasting period. The heavens belong to the highest bidder. Believe me, a lot of people a bidding higher, that is why we are in the state we are in. When we say pray, we expect that we say one prayer, and it is answered. But I say, No. In our Church, for 5 years, we have prayed the same prayer, every single gathering.  It is a testimony to heaven, that we said we will never gather as a Church without crying out for this nation. For 5 years, we have not missed one gathering where we have not cried out for the nation.
Number four. God has to use people of faith because it takes faith to believe what we are talking about. When you look around and all the signs are saying the opposite, it has to be a person of faith.  It has to be the spirit of Elijah that goes us a mountain and faces nine hundred plus prophets knowing that if God does not answer, he is dead! It has to be the spirit of Elijah, that kneels down to pray and keeps saying to his servant,  “Go and check, because I hear the sound of the abundance of rain, and my God does not lie”.  I hear the sound of revival in the world, and God does not tell lies!
Number five.  It has to be someone who is ready to be persecuted. You know, when people see the clip of the Prime Minister visiting Church, and it was a wonderful day, visited Church, not just visiting, worshiped in Church. The result of that was the most unprecedented attack personally I have faced in my whole life.  The Press tore me to pieces. At a stage, I felt for my own children, that they have to read such things being said about their father. My Caucasian friends were calling me to commiserate with me. But I told them one thing: I said, God must surely prepare a man, for the call of his life. I said, I am Nigerian. ‘Am African.  We have a thick skin. If this is all that they can throw at me, they haven’t even seen anything yet!
Number six. A radical holiness. It is impossible for God to use anybody in this manner if that person is not committed to what I call a “radical holiness.” This is more than an understanding of “doctrinal holiness”, but is the pursuit of personal holiness through a knowledge of the Bible as the living Word of God. 
And let me just share some of what our state of affairs has led us to do in the United Kingdom. Some of it might encourage you, some of it you are already doing, but I share these things.
We sat down, we strategized, we prayed, we mourned. We wept. Then we were forced to fast and pray. And God began to give us certain strategies and I’ll share them very quickly with you.
Number one, God said to us, part of the challenge is that as a people you are not strategic. And yet, all your enemies are strategic. You see, as a church, we are short-term in nature. Let me just get through Sunday, let me just get through the next service. Let me just get through next week.  Our enemies are strategic. Our enemies are strategic. The things we see now, you know history, I don’t have to tell you. Some of them were said in 1960 at independence.  We are beginning to see them now. The enemy already knows those he has targeted for certain positions. In whatever guise, the enemy is strategic. Now in England, they are beginning to slip into the subconscious of young people especially: that certain lifestyles is normal. They are strategic. They know that if they do that for the next 10 years, that after 10 years it would be accepted as normal. Because there are things that are acceptable now, that 15 years ago were unthinkable! But the enemy is strategic, the Church has to become strategic. We have to look beyond a service. And we have to start to think of 5 years, and 10 years, and 15 years, and 20 years. Every battle is won by strategy. 
Number two. We came to understand that we have no choice but to be aggressive church planters. There is no choice in the matter.  Why is there no choice? Because nature abhors a vacuum. If you don’t put your foot there – and don’t forget it’s all about territory – somebody else is going to put their foot there. That’s how we found ourselves in a place where 500 churches closed, 480 mosques are planted. It’s about land. It’s about territory. We don’t have a choice. If we hope to win this war, we must somehow figure out, how we are going to plant Churches.  Because you see, when God looks down from heaven, and sees those churches, it might only be 10 people, but what God sees from heaven is a light in darkness. 
Number three, and this should have been the first thing.  We knew that only prayer like we have never prayed before can make these things happen.  We knew that for what we want, we must pray prayer we have not prayed before.  
What else did God lay on our hearts about prayer?  God said to us, you need to raise governance cells.  Someone said to me, what are governance cells?  They are cells of people who don’t pray ordinary prayers.  They are people who understand governance prayers.  Who understand kingship and who understand decree, and the power of it
Number four. What else did God tell us? We came to understand too late that information is critical to every war effort.  And so we created the Central Intelligence Unit.  And what is their mandate?  Their mandate is just to gather information.  Information that allows us to pray and allows us to act. There are people who love research.  They enjoy it. One of them, he’s just excited when he’s showing me diagrams and graphs and he’s explaining to me, voting patterns of all our MPs. Because how do you pray if you don’t know the voting patterns of the Member of Parliament, or your Senator, or your Member of House of Reps?  How do you ensure that the next election, he does not, as they say in Nigeria, “smell” that place?  Because you’ve looked at his voting pattern and he consistently votes against the Kingdom of God.  How do we fight if we don’t have information in our hands?  How do we know what is happening, How do we know the places where we need to concentrate our efforts?  And so we …set up this research effort, and that’s what they do.  All those doing this research, they just give us information.  And some of the information is eye-opening.  But it allows us to be targeted in our efforts and in our prayers.  It’s from that information that we knew concentrations of areas that we needed to concentrate on.  Because those areas were anti the gospel.
Number five.  We’ve understood that God works in partnership.  Elijah said, “God I am the only one!”  God said, “Don’t be so arrogant.  There are 7,000 of you who haven’t bowed their knees to Baal.”  
Number six.  We’ve understood that Salt and Light means that the salt and light is out there.  Not in the salt shaker, but the salt jar. And so, we’ve now started to fast-track our members into public life.  Because if we stay in our churches and clap hands, and sing songs, the enemy will arrive at the door of our churches.  The whole essence of Church is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.  The work of the ministry is not just the pulpit.  The work of the ministry is someone who is in the House of Reps and godly, not someone who purported to be godly, and then when they got out there we hear they were doing all kinds of things. Someone who is sitting on top of an organization and godly.  And so we must have a strategy, because part of the reason that they get there and they fall is because we haven’t intentionally equipped them for the battle that is out there.  And the battle is fierce.  Out there.  Somebody says to me, I can’t be corrupted, I said let them put a million dollars in front of you, and you know nobody is going to know if you take it.  Then tell me if you don’t take that whether you can be corrupted.  That’s what a lot of those people face.  And we haven’t fortified them and build structures around them.  And created accountability circles around them.  So that they can go out there as soldiers on a mission.  And we must do that.  Of course the Pastor can be President.  A Pastor can be President of the Senate.  A Pastor is Vice president and Acting President.  Of course pastors are ministers.  Why shouldn’t ministers be heads of banks? Of course, they can!   But then they must carry Christ into those places.  
Number seven.  We realized that if we don’t engage the millennial generations, we should forget about it.  
And can I tell you something, as an aside? I have found one thing to be true.  If you do God’s thing, God does your thing.  I am telling you, if you do God’s thing, God does your thing. 

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