By Gbenga Osinaike
The third edition of the annual glorious freedom assembly organized by the West Africa Theological Seminary wounded up on May 11 at the seminary main campus in Ipaja, Lagos leaving participants with a clear perspective on what it means to be holy.
The event, which attracted students of WATS, pastors and church workers from across Nigeria was indeed a time to dig into God’s word and explore the knotty issue of holiness which many have interpreted from different perspectives.
With the Theme Highway to Holiness, the founder of the institution, Dr. Gary Maxey who was one of the speakers gave clear biblical illustration on what it means to live a holy life pointing out specifically that holiness is a life time synergy between man and God.
He noted that the wrong interpretation of the word holiness has made many veer off from the truth and thereby abandon the call of God to live holy. While noting that holiness is not sticking to certain rules and regulations, he said, “Both man and God are involved in the process of holiness. The trouble is that there are people who believe that living holy is carrying out certain rules and regulations while there are those who are Gnostic, they believe you don’t need to do anything to be holy all you need is to believe. Both are extremes and they are wrong.”
While drawing heavily from the book of Colossians and Galatians to make his point, he said, “There is a universal experience of being born again. Soon after that experience one finds out that there is a deeper need for more experience of God and sometimes conflict inside. So, the fact that we have become born again does not make us irresponsible. If indeed we have no role to play in the business of holiness, Paul will not encourage us to put to death our members. That action is to be carried out by us as we cooperate with God.” He said.
Gary who spoke alongside Dr. Peter Ozodo and the Provost of WATS Professor John Okwii expressed concern that many people have abandoned their walk with God because they felt frustrated by the demand of holiness noting that it is lack of understanding of these folks that have made them take such decisions.
“What people must appreciate is that Mr. Flesh will always show up. The devil does not give up easily. But if we cooperate with God, we will be able to work out the life of holiness that is already inherent in us. When the Bible talks about working out salvation in Phil 2v10 it is simply saying bring forth what is already in you, show it forth, make it manifest. Holiness is not about feeling. It is what God has already done. But you have a responsibility to make it manifest.”
He explained further that any man who is born again and walking with Jesus is already walking on the highway of holiness. God’s purpose is to make us holy in his sight. But we have to cooperate with him to achieve this. It is a life time cooperation between man and God.”
Dr. Ozodo in his message gave an insight into what it means to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus. He said, “to take up your cross simply means to be ready to die. It is a sign of total abandonment to the cause of Christ. If you have taken up your cross what you are saying is that the world no longer matters to you. Whether you got promoted in the office or not does not matter to you, whether you are rich or poor does not matter to you because your eyes is set on the glory before you. You are simply ready to die. You don’t care again about what happens to you in this present life because you’ve already made up your mind to die. That is what Jesus meant when he urged people to take up their cross and follow him in Matt 16v24-26”
Prof. Okwii the provost of the institution in a down to earth message lamented the dearth of clear biblical teaching of the truth of God’s word noting that the high level ignorance among the clergy and the laity is the bane of the church. He stated, “if there is no clear biblical teaching of any truth there will be no genuine faith.” Giving a graphic illustration of the state of the church in Africa he noted with dismay how pastors have compromised the truth of God’s word while urging them to come to repentance.