Interviews: Over Coffee

An Indepth Conversation with Pastor and Author Greg Obong-Oshotse | If The Angelic Postman Never Knocks On My Door

Greg Obong-Oshotse's new book is worth a read. 

In a post-modern society where Christianity is laughed and scoffed at, this collection of reflections portrays real faith in a darkened world without fear of judgement or intolerance.

Why are people confused about Christianity? Why do Christians themselves struggle with disappointment while society at large is so adverse to the teachings of the faith? If the Angelic Postman Never Knocks on My Door cuts through the dark clouds of confusion in the public square and suggests this confusion is largely because Christians themselves have lost their own message and, with it, their true identity.

A large chunk of the church, unfaithful and backslidden, is declining rapidly. Desperate to reverse the trend, it dabbles in heresy and apostasy as it seeks to accommodate a fallen, corrupt and broken world that is at best indifferent but which too often responds with militant intolerance. The result is that the light of the church is fading while the surrounding world darkens. 

Greg Obong-Oshotse's collection is a first-person reflection on what Christian commitment looks like a true disciple to Christ. It is unashamed of the gospel, unperturbed by political correctness and relentlessly Biblical.

JacanaBooks Edmonton recently had the pleasure of Pastor Greg Obong-Oshotse's company. The book is available on all online platforms including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other online e-retailers. We hope you enjoy reading this interview. Please support us by sharing with your family and friends. 

Why did you write “If the Angelic Postman never knocks”?

The book came out of intense theological reflection during a long period of an agonising trial of faith, long midnight of the soul. Previous involvement in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles had taught me to PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens) – which inadvertently teaches the humanistic doctrine of the primacy of the individual – rather than, and as opposed to – the Sovereignty of God.  The primacy of the individual, along with the inevitability of the triumph of his or her personal desires and ambitions, is at the root of much of what goes by the name of prosperity theology in vast swathes of the Church today.  It breeds an entitlement mindset that is diametrically opposed to the Biblical humility of the disciple of Jesus Christ, and encourages a swaggering enthronement culture instead of the sober service of the messenger, and it sets the mind on the material, not the spiritual, on the earthly, not the heavenly, and on the visible, not the invisible (Romans 8:5-8; Colossians 3:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:18)

Is this your first book?

It is my first published book. A few other manuscripts are lying in the drawer.

Is Christianity a hard sell in today’s world?

Christianity has always been a hard sell and will always be so. Primarily because it is set in the context of an unceasing war: between light and darkness, Satan and Christ, flesh and spirit, heaven and hell, eternal life and eternal damnation, the kingdom of the world and the Kingdom of God. Christ came to rescue humanity from the Fall and its consequences: sin and death and judgement and hell. That’s what people need to be saved from. But Satan the adversary, although a defeated foe, is never happy to see people saved and fights to keep people away from the light (2 Corinthians 4:4). So, the world is a theatre of spiritual warfare in which Satan and his demons are fighting to stop people from being saved (2 Corinthians 10:5). Many seminaries and theological colleges do not teach this anymore. In consequence, ministers are being formed and churned out of these seminaries and colleges without this critical understanding. In turn, they are neither equipped to fight the battle themselves nor to teach their congregations. Not surprisingly, many Christians have lost this perspective and, in consequence, find Christianity almost an unbearable struggle.

Trusting a God that we cannot see or the Unknown God is a difficult concept is it not?

Philosophically and psychologically, yes. But not spiritually, for we see with eyes of faith (Hebrews 11). One of the chief reasons we have this impression is because we have far too many professors of faith in the public square and in our pulpits who have never been saved. They are not disciples of Jesus Christ. They come to matters of faith from a purely human (philosophical, psychological) perspective. They may have excellent academic knowledge, be educated in the best schools, be inventors and winners of the Nobel and the world’s top prizes, and enjoy the highest status and regard among humanity. Yet they are spiritually dead. They are natural men and women. They cannot ‘accept (or understand) the things of the Spirit of God because they are foolish to them’ (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Yet we will find such people, while they are still spiritually dead, making assertive authoritative statements about faith and spiritual matters. They are drafted in by governments and nations and big institutions to make policies and decisions on faith. They are even leaders of churches and those who are not, are consulted by them (dead churches, of course!) to teach them the principles of Church growth and governance.

Trust in God is spiritual enablement and it is a gift that comes with our salvation. To be born again is to be ‘born from above’ which means it is the Holy Spirit who comes from heaven (above) and births the new life in us. He also takes up residence in us to give us all the enablement that we need for our earthly pilgrimage. His presence in us grants us both a personal knowledge of God and an assurance that we are His (Romans 8:16). So we can trust God even if we cannot see Him because we know Him personally. That is why those who are born again are said to have had a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And those who are His disciples are said to have a sanctifying knowledge of Jesus Christ. Surely, it must be hard, indeed impossible, for those who do not know Christ to trust God because nothing in humanism will ever enable a man or woman to trust God. That is why they are unbelievers.

The idea that we should abandon ourselves to God is a pacifist idea. We don’t need faith in God to give up on life.

It may appear to be so. But, on the contrary, it is the most active proof of true discipleship. To be so completely identified with Christ that we are completely taken over by Him, owned and employed, and disposed of as He wills, is the irreducible minimum of discipleship. That is what we find taught by Christ Himself in several parts of the Gospels. In Matthew 10: 37-39, He tells His disciples just before sending them out on a mission, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Also, in John 6, after a ‘hard’ teaching on what it means to be His disciple (‘except you eat my flesh and drink my blood. . .’ which in part is a call to complete identification with Him), many of His disciples “turned back and no longer walked with him” v66. The great apostle Paul succinctly affirms the same truth in his often-quoted testimony, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Galatians 2:20a.

Abandoning ourselves to God, or resignation as I put it in the book, is not a ‘sit on your hands’ attitude (siddon look in Nigerian patois) which is to be negligent. It simply means surrendering to God’s will no matter how much it differs from our desires and ambitions. An example would be to choose Christ even if that brought division in your family and made you an outcast (Matthew 10:34-37). That is neither pleasant nor passive. It is the most active step of faith in an obedient disciple of Christ.

As you rightly observed we don’t need faith in God to give up on life. And that’s precisely why people give up – they have no faith! Christ warns His followers against that: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 True disciples not only do not give up, but they also cannot give up!

Does life ever have a purpose?

We are each created with a purpose. Read Psalm 139 especially v13-16 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”  That doesn’t look like a Creator working painstakingly for no purpose. The man born blind was created with a purpose (John 9:3). So too the death of Lazarus (John 11:4, 42, 45; John 12:11, 18). And the lives of David (Acts 13:36), and Joseph (Psalm 105:16-22). And indeed, for everyone and everything in His creation (Proverbs 16:4; Ephesians 1:11). Quite often, life seems without purpose simply because it is not yet rightly related to Christ – either from not being born again or from not being rightly fed in the Word, and so not growing in grace. There will, of course, be times in the lives of disciples when they lack a sense of purpose, usually when under severe trial like Job; but it is usually for a limited time and eventually, they triumph through faith whether that is by deliverance or martyrdom.

How can we justify hardships, diseases and suffering as Christians? Why do believing Christians suffer? Why does God allow suffering? And then He chooses the prayers He answers.

We live in a broken world, a world severely disfigured by the Fall in the Garden of Eden, a world that is itself groaning for deliverance through recreation (Romans 8:19-22), just as we (our physical bodies) are (Romans 8:23). If Adam and Eve fell in paradise, how much more difficult do you think life in a broken world should be! The Fall affected everything. A curse came upon the serpent (Satan), Eve and Adam (Genesis 3:14-19). Before the Fall, Adam and Even had dominion, were free from sickness and disease, from worry and anxiety and troubles, and from suffering and hardships and fears. Animals were not wild predators. And the ground was blessed so the earth was easy to live in. All of these are consequences of the Fall. Each of us comes into the world in Adam (the first man) subject to the effects of the Fall. We can only find redemption in the last Adam (the second man, Christ. But while we are still on earth we will suffer from hardships and diseases because our physical bodies are not yet redeemed. But at the resurrection, we shall have new bodies and live in a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no more tears, trouble, hardships, disease, pain or death (1 Corinthians 15:42-49; Revelation 21:1-8).

Meanwhile, God answers all prayers but we don’t often recognise the answers largely because our conception of answered prayers is skewed by our expectations which themselves are too often governed by our personal desires and ambitions. God answers prayers according to His will and purpose. Not many of us really begin with God’s will in our prayers! And many a prayer is but personal greed baptised in the name of Christ!

Does God have favourites? When we pray and God does not answer. What do you do? It seems easier to give up on God than to keep waiting.

God has friends (favourites, if you wish). They are those who obey Him. “You are my friends if you do what I command you” John 15:14 Many people cry out to God in self-centred prayers while discounting His Word, picking and choosing from it according to their fallen human wisdom and refusing to obey certain commands because, according to them, they are no longer relevant in ‘this day and age’. Somehow, the 21st century is more advanced than the teachings of the Holy Bible and the postmodern man and woman are more sophisticated than those to whom the Bible was originally written so they cannot be expected to follow everything the Bible says. And as God was not aware of the huge explosions in human knowledge in the 21st century, so the thinking goes, today’s better-educated people must of necessity assume authority over the Word of God and decide which parts are relevant and which are not!

They conveniently forget that God counts the prayers of a disobedient and rebellious people as ‘abomination’: “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” Proverbs 28:9. Many Christians live in frustration because they are governed by this ideology of the fallen world. And more is the pity because this demonic ideology is passed off as divine theology in seminaries, theological colleges and churches, in consequence of which not a few Christians have come under the influence of “deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1Timothy 4:1). I can well understand how frustrating and agonising this must be for naïve and gullible Christians because I have been there myself!

Your book suggests we stay with God regardless of what life throws at us. This is not an easy option.

No, it isn’t. Precisely because true discipleship is never easy. The peddling of the heresies of easy believe-ism and paradise on earth is the work of hucksters and hirelings of Satan. You never find that teaching anywhere in the Scriptures. In fact, the opposite is the case. Christ teaches that the way to life is narrow and hard, and the way to destruction broad and easy (Matthew 7:13-14). On several occasions, Christ seemed to tighten the criteria for discipleship to help those who thought it was an easy vocation to think twice and weigh it all up before commencing their pilgrimage with Him (Matthew 8:18-22; 12:46-50; 19:16-22; Luke 14:25-35; John 6:25-29). And of course, pilgrimages are never easy things. They are a call away from comfort and stability, certainty and the predictable to discomfort, instability, uncertainty and the unpredictable. You cannot be on the narrow and hard way and expect to find the giddy abandon of the broadway. Neither should you be on the broad and easy way and expect to find the strictures of the narrow way.

What did you edit out of this book?

The execrable depths of rebellion in the pulpit!

Has the process of writing this book strengthened your faith?

Certainly! It was the result of a growing understanding of God and the writing has in turn been used to finetune my own faith.

What really matters in life then?

Let’s go right back to our spiritual nursery. The best answer comes from The Westminster Shorter Catechism. The very first question it asks is, What is the chief end of man?” And the answer it gives is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” That really is all that matters in life. But you would not know that from the vast ranges of humanity’s much vaunted encyclopaedic knowledge. You are not going to find that in the many books churned out on philosophy, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, economics, politics, medicine, or any of the other branches of human knowledge. If you paid top dollars to send your child to Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, or any of the other elite institutions in the world, they would teach the child everything else but this most basic of all the knowledge in the world. What is even more alarming is that there is hardly any guarantee that the child would be given this insight today in many of our churches from Ottawa to Geneva, and from London to Washington DC.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

Yes, and I leave them all – good and bad – in God’s hands!

What books are you reading now?

The two-volume biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Iain Murray.

What does 2019 look like for you?

Another year on the battlefield!

Thank you so much for doing this interview.

Thank you for the privilege.

 

 

 

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