“And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the high ways and hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” Luke 14:23
Several servants of God are very familiar with the frustrations of having much less result in their labours and preaching than their hearts’ desire, much less than the promises the word of God holds. The tendency is to revert to cajoling, gimmicks, and preaching half-truths which may result in filling our works and churches with men that are much more familiar with our many “hallelujah” and “Amen” than with souls who can be said to have “…turned from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven…”. ( 1 Thess. 1: 9-1 0 )
And yet, any soul which we cannot eventually carry to heaven represents not only the tricks of the devil played on us, but also a waste of very precious divine time and resources. For this, the servant shall be called upon to give account.
To have souls who will partake of the final supper in the kingdom of God demands the outworking of God’s power and grace in our lives. The truth of the scriptures is clear that if we seek and desire nothing than the very naked power of God from on high even impossible and unlikely souls on our streets today will by our witness be ‘compelled’ by the reason of anointing into the kingdom. Few scriptural examples may bring home the point that what needs our concentration is nothing less than ministers with that intangible, invisible, but penetrable impartation of God’s power on their lives and service to God in the midst of the church and of the world.
“And he came into all the country about Jordan preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of Esaias the prophet saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough ways shall be made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God”. (Luke 3:3-6)
John the Baptist was called to preach “repentance for the remission of sins”. All ministers are called to this, not to trade and commerce. The remission of sins must be the starting point of the entrance of the gospel in every life no matter who he is. It is clear from this scripture that sin creates mountains, valleys and all manner of crookedness, making the way between any man and God rough and impassable so that no help can flow from the Almighty to man. However, God has ordained this one method: the preaching of the gospel, to level up these barriers of mountains of pride, valleys of hypocrisy, the crookedness of cheating in office and business affairs and the roughness of inner character that make inter-personal relationships difficult in our days.
It is also very clear that John had this result in his preaching as the Bible puts it in Matt. 3:5-6:
“Then went out to him Jerusalem; and all Judea and all the region about Jordan and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.”
You have noticed the ‘all’ underlined in the passage above. Here is a life that commanded the attention of all, not just people with a certain cultural, religious and social inclination but all. It was not his tribesmen that came to his baptism as to ‘their thing’, not a people from the section of the country where John was born that came to encourage him. The anointing upon John the Baptist was too powerful to be reduced to a sectional church: it brought all to his baptism.
The multitude that came was of an illustrative composition. Matthew chapter 3 verse 7 says:
‘…Many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism…’
This was such an unlikely set to come, that they were noticed and made mention of. These have been set and made up in their religious doctrines. They are the preachers, teachers and custodians of the law. They are pastors of other souls who are fully set in their minds about their “God-given duty” to ensure that this “foolish” doctrine of just crying around in the name of repenting from sin must not break into their own flock at least. These are men who must have considered it terribly foolish and gullible to leave well-set synagogues with well trained Pastors to go out to a “rebel” with no theological degree out there in the desert; to a man who had not been well-schooled in the ordered way of worship, with his uncultured manner of throwing anybody into water in the name of Baptism. They were men neck deep in hypocrisy, and Jesus would warn “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6), “which is hypocrisy” (LK. 12: 1). They were men who even though their doctrines could only be described as “leaven” (Matt. 16: 12), were quick to turn around and accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan (Matt. 9:34). These were they that the power of God upon John the Baptist brought out of their well-furnished synagogues, homes and chauffeured chariots to hear the truth of their life condition and their eternal destiny if they would not repent.
The truth and demand about their lives were the same as that of the multitude as stated in verses 7 and 8 of both Matthew and Luke chapter 3:
“O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance.”
Preaching under the anointing of God brings the same facts of and about sin to every sinner, whether he or she is on the street or in the church: driving in the most expensive car or trekking, rich or poor, literate or illiterate, in rags or in cassock and surplice. It is human wisdom trying to appeal to a special class of people thereby manipulating messages by calling sin “a mistake”; anger “righteous indignation”; being touchy “a problem of the nerves”; covetousness “ insight for business expansion”; stubbornness “ sticking to convictions”; and pride “superior tastes”.
Another composition of the multitude were publicans (tax collectors, extortioners, businessmen) as found in verses 12 and 13 of Luke 3
“Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master what should we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.”
I am sure if John was about promoting an offering and asking the people to bring out their chequebooks and write out a cheque to the size of God, this group will not be at a loss for what to do. I am also sure this still was a strange meeting to them since it was not discussing contracts over a good lunch, nor the next amount of tax to be collected with the interest they must add to keep them in business. That which compelled them to be in that strange meeting where, for the first time perhaps, they were not in charge, was anointing. What brought them to their knees and made them address another person this time as Master? What made this arrogant class with consciences seared by injustice, who cares not about the suffering masses, but rather squeezing out every kobo from the poor, to now tremble for their lives? Nothing else will bring arrogance to its knees in the church first and then in our nation, but this compelling anointing.
“And the soldiers likewise demanded of him saying, “And what shall we do?” Luke 3. Verse 14
Soldiers, like anybody else, also came. They came broken like the multitudes with no class consciousness; like the Pharisees, Sadducees and the rich publicans: to take orders from a ‘bloody civilian’. They always had their way using any means, but here they were treated last. They stood with everybody else receiving the same treatment as everybody else from this man who was quickened in the spirit by anointing to be more “forceful” than they who were soldiers. They were humble to ask ‘And what shall we do?’
Every minister of God, by his preaching and lifestyle, must be an order to every sinner to either repent or perish. Every preaching that leaves sinners comfortable and smiling away has its origin from either intellect or directly from hell and so lacks the power of God. Ministers the likes of John neither left soldiers of ranks nor even kings without a conviction of their sins. They were convicted enough to seek the way out or hate him enough to put him in prison. I dare say this is the anointing we all need.
And where were the leading religious leaders, the rich, those in power, army generals and all the multitudes flocking to?
“In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea.” (Matt. 3.1)
How understandable if they had been sent an invitation to a meeting in a well-air-conditioned five-star hotel! That would have been on familiar ground. No wonder there is an emphasis on and struggle for wall-to-wall carpeted churches to demonstrate to the world that our God is not a poor God. May we understand well that if we are out for these in order to attract those that will never go to church we have missed God’s means. I wonder how a man will start his ministry in the wilderness instead of launching it in a well-populated city and in a good hotel, where men should be comfortable. Whatever moves ministers out of the village to cities where, according to them God has recently shown them in a vision that they ought to be, is not anointing, it rather resembles greed. If it is anointing, it will compel men even to the wilderness where the man of God is.
The current unattractiveness of the church is neither because of poor architectural designs nor the lack of inside decorations of church buildings. It is because those of us who minister in the churches lack spiritual attractiveness which is the power of God in our lives. Any other means of getting people to the church, either by cheapening the gospel or by using money to attract the world will only produce “Spiritual derelicts, confused and confounded at best.
To whom were the religious leaders, the rich and powerful flocking to?
“And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle about his loins: and his meat was locusts and wild honey” (Matt. 3:4)
It was this John, who ordinarily was nothing. A footnote in the bible explaining his dressing and diet has it that what he wore and ate were only worn and eaten by the poor while the rich used girdles of silk or linen, decorated with gold, silver and precious stones. Of course, Jesus confirmed this when He asked the multitudes concerning John.
“What went you out into the wilderness to see … a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses.” Matt. 11:7-8).
John’s raiment was far from being soft. I heard a man of God preach it hard to us that a righteous man should at least eat well and dress well. If that is the criteria and mark of a righteous man, John was far from being one. Yet it was still the same John, whose dress and diet were nothing to write home about that compelled men of all classes to go to him, not to watch drama, but to repent and be dipped in Baptism in the dirty waters of Jordan. Nobody had seen this type of thing in Israel before! Anointing brought it and compelled men into it. Rowland Hills said of Wesley and his group: ‘He and laylubbers – his ragged legion of preaching tinkers, scavengers, dray men and chimney sweepers go forth to poison the minds of men’. Yes! Their preaching was like poisoned arrows and once they were shot into the hearts of men, sinners could not be laughing their way back home.
Ministry is not dress and food, but holiness of life with compelling anointing to change the lives of men. Once the pursuit of material things rather than the empowering of lives by the Holy Spirit becomes the preoccupation of ministers of God in any generation and country, an impending doom hangs over such a generation and country. Remember Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas; who for food made apostasy and prophetic dormancy characterize the days of Eli. What would have driven Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah with his league of prophets to be prophesying lies in the courts of Ahab, if not soft raiment and sumptuous meals? As we survey the ministerial pattern in Nigeria, are we not like Naboth, selling the inheritance of our Father (the church) to “worldlings” or exchanging it for another estate? However, there was no need of shifting position, should we pursue his provision of anointing until we are endowed with power from on high for effective service. How relevant therefore is the admonition of this saint: ‘Preacher, with all thy getting, get unction!’ You may have several degrees in theology, charisma, and oratory, but these are short of the requirements for breaking through the hearts of men and affecting them permanently for the kingdom. No price is too much to be paid for this if we must serve God acceptably.
This brings us to our second scriptural example (Acts 2:23-41) highlighting the need for effective anointing as being above all other needs in ministry.
Here is an account of the result of Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost. The background to it was the directives of the Lord Jesus Christ that the disciples
” should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which saith he, ye have heard of me ” ( Acts 1:4).
Divine wisdom demanded that though the task of preaching the gospel after Jesus had resurrected and gone up was very urgent, the disciples who were the only ones in a position to witness Jesus must still wait. They had been with Jesus and had been eyewitnesses of every happening. They could have gone about telling everybody the story of how they arrested Him, tried Him unjustly, killed him cruelly on the cross and buried Him but hurrah! He arose on the third day. Praise the Lord! But the Master said that with all that knowledge, it was not enough to witness. We could have sound doctrine and correct knowledge of the Bible with the eloquence of speech, yet hear the Lord say, “Wait”. This alone will produce a lifesaving effect on the hearer.
Dare we go in our own days without power in our individual lives? Dare you to assume the anointing of the Holy Spirit on you as a person? I talk not of the dispensational descent of the Holy Spirit, but the power of God on you as a person for effectual witness of our Lord as you stand to preach. There is still a need to wait on the Lord until there is an outburst of the power of God on your life and ministry, such that cancels out the temptation to turn to gimmicks and psychological manipulations of your audience.
“And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter and James and John … These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication … ” (Acts 1: 13-14)
It is interesting to know that they really waited. Several preachers have discovered the need to wait on the Lord for the endowment of power for service but they have only gone as far as talking it or preaching it out. This is a needed price that must actually be paid with days and nights of prayers and supplications and the neglect of other genuine activities or else no real power comes upon your life. As they waited, the power came on that faithful day of Pentecost and things changed.
Peter stood up to give a simple explanation of the phenomenon that the people observed on that day.
And “when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do” (Acts 2:37).
Preaching under the power of the Holy Spirit produces the same result as seen in the lives of John the Baptist and Peter where men are brought to the realization that they are without hope except through the mercy of the crucified Christ. It is different from our preaching today, where we are prepared to do anything as long as we can get somebody to the altar for something. We gullibly call out “Who wants to be blessed here today? Who wants more power? Who wants me to anoint him for five thousand naira two days from now?”
How sad that this satisfies our hearts today as Ministers and we call it ministration. How unfortunate for the gospel of Jesus in our hands. Those that knew the power of the Holy Spirit on their lives preached, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls who “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine …” (Acts 2:41-42). Some of these three thousand were scoffers who were compelled to surrender to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. We are referring to a meeting which was put together purely by the anointing. We must rise above our present situation where very few people come to the altar in our meetings and for blessings when they are persuaded to come. Most go back to sin waiting for another time of meeting when a call for blessing and prosperity would be given.
Such “a sinning, repenting, easy believeism” cycle dishonours the power of the Word and prostitutes the blood of Jesus Christ. Men that are added to the church by the Holy Spirit must continue as true children of God in the fellowship of His word, in prayers and in the breaking of bread. Only this way shall we carry our converts to heaven. And there is a way to this compelling anointing when the servants would be given authority to:
“Go out unto the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled”. ( Luke 14:23 )