Excerpts of the message delivered on New Year’s Day 1st January 2023 by the Most Rev Dr Benjamin Kwashi, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Jos, Nigeria
The Cathedral Church of St. Luke, 26, Church Street, Jos, Nigeria
Text: John 1:14-18
Today is the first Sunday after Christmas and I feel led to continue with the passage, which we shared last Sunday, John’s Gospel Chapter 1 and the teaching from verse 14-18. So open your Bibles to John Chapter 1:14; the Lord led our vicar to pray for us in the word that was given to me, it’s in the Bible. Listen to what the Bible says:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (so the Word is dwelling. Note that very well), and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)  For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (ESV).
This is the word of the Lord! Let us pray; gracious Father, please be merciful to us this year that we may dwell in your word and that you may reveal yourself to us and us revealed to you even if we don’t, we don’t have a hiding place, you know us. So in you mercy, grant that in knowing us and in our seeking you we may find you so that running with you in this race in 2023, in life or in death, we will be yours; grant this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
You know the coming of Jesus (get it right, and I think you should get it right); in the whole of human history, only the coming of Jesus altered and altered forever the way the world is, the way the world was and the way the world is to be governed and accounted for forever. Jesus introduced to the world who the one; the only one as John says, the one true God. If you want to know God, there is no other way you can ever know God, the one we are talking about, the one true God, apart from through Jesus Christ; no other way. People try in various forms to try to explain who God is, you cannot, you can never, it is not possible to know God outside of Jesus Christ. Jesus introduced to the world who the true God is and His introduction was what we celebrate as Christmas. He came as a child, nobody knew who He was, a couple of shepherds in the wilderness, they said they heard angels singing, they told people, people didn’t believe it, they looked for where He was born and they found Him in a manger. How could God be born in a manger? Obscure, insignificant, ordinary, simple, born of a virgin from a locality called Nazareth in Bethlehem-a small girl. His first 30 years, unknown, except that His cousins and his friends occasionally were noticing that this child is a bit different. He seems to be doing things that humanity has never seen before. The precision with which he did His carpentry was unique; He was ordinary. Isaiah tells us that there was nothing particular about Him. He was so ordinary until the day He went for a wedding and He turned water into wine. People said Aha, we knew it, this man; there is something about Him. But that is not all.
Jesus shows and makes it possible for humans to live a godly life hear on earth. Hebrews tells us in Chapter 4 that Jesus lived like anyone of us except without sin. He cried, He ate, He slept, He woke up, He ran, He played, He was except He was without sin. And that is the example He has left for us that it is possible to defeat sin, it is possible to defeat sin. From age zero to twelve, children make mistakes of all kinds, it is sin alright but from young adults, from teenage years, from thirteen until we die, no human being, not one commits sin without thinking about it, planning how to do it, organizing how to achieve it and executing it- no sin is by mistake, not one, not one. I am telling you from experience as a retired sinner. You sit down, you plan it, you orchestrate it in your mind, when you are caught, you say I made a mistake; only when you are caught. And in some occasions, when somebody stands on the pulpit, it doesn’t matter who and he speaks the word of god correctly, nobody tells you you are a sinner, nobody exposes you, it is God almighty who sees you because you have come before his presence, He exposes His word, the Holy Spirit convicts your heart, nobody knows and suddenly you are crying and repenting, only you and God. In my own case it was not even in church. Dominic Oke in Lagos was witnessing for Christ, and when he shared the gospel, my only response to him was “ah, I don’t even know your name, he said Dominic, I said brother Dominic, God cannot love me, my mother doesn’t love me, my father, nobody loves me because my sins are too many and I don’t know how to stop it. If I go back I commit sin, in my barracks I commit sin; everywhere I am a sinner, God does not love sinners” He said no, John 10:10 and he shared with me that it is the thief who comes to steal, to kill and to do what? To destroy but God has come in Christ to give life and give it in abundance- nobody beat me. I was shedding tears on the street brethren; on the street I was holding my cigarette, thank God, that was the last day. Jesus shows us it is possible to defeat sin. If you are still struggling with it, you are not struggling with sin, you are struggling with rejecting Jesus but also, Jesus points to the end of time so yes, (thank you Mama for that heartfelt prayer, for bringing us to the throne of grace) but plan for the day of Jesus, Jesus is coming back. If you are not planning that, you will not get anywhere where God is. As you live your life everyday, plan also for that day whether He comes back and you see him or you die to go and be with Him. No other way to see God if we don’t die. No other way. And if you die in Christ as you close your eyes and your last breath, that same split second your eyes open where your savior is in Christ. Those who fear death are not sure because they don’t want to believe, they are still holding on to their iniquities.
Our world today is not much different from when Jesus came. The pain and miseries caused by heartless, and I call them heartless and wicked people. Some of them become leaders, some are in the middle cadre, some are in the lower cadre; the kind of wickedness that pervades society, the poor oppress the poor, the rich oppress the poor, the powerful oppress and I was talking last week in particular reference to those of us who are called as Pastors, and teachers and doctors- caregivers; it is what we do that the society copies, it is what we teach that the society leaves. If this Cathedral Church we decide that this church is going to be a gospel centred-church for any tribe, anybody anyone, and we teach it from the pulpit and we live it, believe me, this will be one of the greatest examples we leave in the city, and I am not saying what I didn’t see. As a little boy here, in this same church, I grew up here, my headmaster was a Yoruba man, we were all together, our parents were all together, this church grew until wickedness was introduced by segregation on tribal lines and on class lines. Let me tell you, your tribe will not introduce you to the gates of heaven, it will not. Your money and position will not save you, even your pastor cannot, your pastor is looking for how he can save himself; only Jesus can save. When Jesus came, the world was also similar divided lines- on tribal lines, in fact on racial lines, even among them Jews, some where dark, some were fair; the classism was horrible and Jesus was born in a poor stable so he was even looked down upon, he didn’t belong. But then, it is not different from now but just see what God does.
Jesus came to change ALL situations so that humanity can respond to God at the same level. I remember at a theological discussion and one of the things (you know theologians are funny people, it depends on which school you attended); God gave me utterance that day because I said to all the people in the academic discussion, and I said to them, I agree that I schooled in Bukuru and you don’t know where it is but one thing I will tell you, when it comes to this Bible, we all are on level ground regardless of your qualifications because I grew up with my grandmother who barely knew how to read and the most she could read was in Ngas Bible, Ngas hymnbook and Ngas prayerbook which was published in 1921, that was all she could read but her faith and prophesies never failed. And I said to them, that is the woman I want to follow. Scholarship will not save you. All the big big grammars we are blowing and you people say ‘ah the man knows book, he knows theology’ excuse me, who says? Only Jesus and faith in Him, radical faith will save. Jesus came so that we who are in darkness can now know God. He came so that we who cannot love each other can now love one another, He came to serve, not to acquire and amassed and oppress people, serve humanity and in serving humanity, we are worshipping God. If you are serving yourself, you are not worshipping God, you are serving other people, people who will not return anything to you, you are worshipping God. If you are serving people for nothing, you are worshipping God.
Our text gives us three things that will guide us in 2023. John 1:14-18; I have captioned it “Seeking to Know God”. Somebody once challenged me on our vision when I said we would be a church seeking to fulfill… Seeking is a biblical thing; it’s not about what scholars say. It’s a biblical theme because if you don’t seek, you will not find. I will run through it. I am going to give us three points that we will take through; already our vicar has told us that we will not be like vagabonds concerning the bible, we will dwell in the word….
- Dwelling in the Word v.14
- Experiencing the word, it’s all about the Word. V 15 & 16.
- Knowing God v.17 & 18 and I will close it.
Last week, we had discussed verses 1-13. The word was active in the beginning, active in creation; the Word is the light of the creation, the power that generates life that gives light in the world. So if you are in the word of God, the light of God will be generated inside you , you don’t have to say anything, your light will shine because you are carrying light. The word is a life-giving light at creation. It breathes life, so wherever a child of God who has the Word in his life will bring life to other people. You bring life to the poor, to the needy to the helpless, in school in the university, hospital- anywhere; you are a life-giving agent of God. So, lets get on with the first point.
- Dwelling in the Word v.14. Look at it “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” The only way to live in this life is to be in the word of God.
- The Word of God dispels ignorance. You can be as knowledgeable in academics, you can read all the secret society books that you will use to frighten and mesmerize people, you can acquire all the knowledge; if you are not dwelling in the word of God, you are ignorant, as far as God is concern, you are ignorant of God. The fool says in his heart, there is no God.
- The Word of God dispels all dark powers. All dark forces, He throws them away and opens you up and introduces you to the one and only one God. That is why John insists he is the one and only one true God.
- The Word of God makes it possible for humanity to record victory after victory. Not that we would not have problems but we will record victory over them, amen, amen. Problems will come but the word of God assures us that victory is ours. If you read Paul’s letters and his experiences in life, you will see what he says in Chapter 8 of Romans, at the end of it, he says we are more than conquerors. If you read job and see what Job went through, you will see that for those who know God, they are more than conquerors. Somebody who knew me from Zaria wrote to me a long text during my struggle, this current second struggle with cancer. He says he remembers when in 1985 as a young priest, we’ve just had our first child, Hannnatu was not even a year old; and I found out that my urine was coming out pure blood, and I went for medical check; in fact, at that time Bishop Bello was member of my church and he was head of the lab. They tested my urine and discovered that one of my kidneys was rotten, infected by tuberculosis and I was growing thin, I couldn’t walk; I was just dying slowly. As a young boy, young man with one child, I remember telling Gloria, saying, well Gloria, you can go back home and find a good husband who will look after you because I was going. My Bishop, Ogbonyomi was arranging for me to evacuate me to the U.K. early 1986. That same month, I went for the last check-up with the Professor, his name was Professor Gad, an Indian man, in those days, not like now, you will collect the urine for about 10 days and they will culture it and it will take nearly 21 days before they get the result. He made me to urinate about 2 cartons of Tritop bottles because they said they want to collect all the urine and I did. When I came after 21 days for the result, Prof Gad looked at me, picked the one they had checked 5 months ago and the one he had done now, they are two different results. He asked me ‘are you taking medicine?” I said ‘no sir’ ‘Are you receiving any treatment anywhere?’ I said ‘no sir’. He looked again and he called Dr Bello and said Dr. Bello, “This result and this one, look at it, there was no an iota of bacteria on this one’. That was how I walked away from that hospital. This person remembered that, and he said, now again, you have cheated cancer twice! So, when you know God, you will record, it’s not that the wahala will not come, it will come, I don’t want to mention how many times the attempts on my life have been; from Zaria to here, with my wife, with my children, problems will come. There was one day, I have told you this story, in December like this 4 years ago, Gloria told me, on the 18th of that December, she said “Baba Hannatu” I was in our room, I said ‘Yes’ “No food in this house, we are drinking our last breakfast, not a grain of food. I said, ‘go and tell the children to pray’ She said ‘no, we have been praying since November, that is why I am telling you now, now, you have to answer this prayer’ I said, ‘Ha, Glo’ and knowing her, God has taught me, that is why husbands know your wives, if you don’t know your wives you will always run into fights. The only time Gloria will look at me straight in the eye and I will feel that It is my grandmother talking is when she has no money. When there is no money, when she looks at me, fear will catch me, I will think it’s my grandmother and I have known her, I have studied her for years so I know that, so I usually hide monies in different places in the house just in case, that was one of those days. So I started looking through one Bible to the other, one bible to the other, she couldn’t be bother, she was doing her work but she didn’t leave the room. I had to produce money; because she is closing school that day and usually when we close school, we have something call “Christmas by the Book”, nearly two thousand people come to eat, and nobody knows how we feed. I God’s grace I discovered in one old devotional book that I kept fifty thousand was there, I just removed it and gave her, she said “Praise the Lord”. Brethren, with Fifty thousand, we fed two thousand one hundred people that day.
- Do you know God? He will not disappoint you. We have stayed before, we drank kunu, morning, evening, nobody knows and nobody sees us like this…. Friends, when you know God, it’s not what you eat, it’s what God gives you, you will record victory. God has made victory available for us but we are looking for defeat.
- The Word makes it possible for us as human beings to record victory. Verse 12 which we saw last week is a key verse. Let me read it to us: “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” How can children of God be defeated when their Father is God? How? How can children of God starve, when God their Father owns the whole world? How can children of God be buffeted by Satan and God will do nothing? Yes, He will do something! Oh He will do in 2023, He will do something concerning elections, that’s what you fear, God has the answers already, He will do something concerning your marriage, god has the answer, He will do something concerning your child. “Oh my child is an igbo smoker” brethren, we have seen igbo smokers come to Christ, if you doubt it, ask me. “My child is a drunkard”, sir, we drank from here to London but Jesus brought us back. Tell me what God cannot do! Children of God, the reason where you are seeing defeat, is your holding Satan’s wickedness but you want Jesus’s victory. It doesn’t work. You want the benefit of the gospel but you don’t want the cross, it doesn’t work. Surrender ALL let God take over the battle. Concerning your salary; they didn’t pay me, we will not agree; let God take it over. Let God take over the battles. In your market, let God take it over, the teacher who is always looking for sex before he gives you mark, let God take it over. The ones, who just hate you for nothing, let God take it over, let God takes over everything and see if God can be defeated. God can NEVER be defeated on your account.
- It is God’s idea that we His children should dwell in Him. It is not our idea; it is His idea. God wants to dwell among and within His children, those who receive Him (v12 again), those who believe in Him. If you doubt it, look at Deuteronomy 33: 27, listen, it says “the eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are His everlasting arms” It’s a mutually exclusive relationship. God wants to dwell with you but you must be willing and surrender to dwell in Him. Because the eternal God is yourrrr eternal dwelling. When you have no other dwelling, you don’t go to any juju house, you don’t go to any secret society place, you don’t go to where wicked people work, Psalm 1, you don’t dwell where the evil people dwell. You dwell with God, God will not disappoint you, He will dwell with you. His promise to His is I will be with you till the end of age; this is the purpose of God for you. It is a mutually exclusive purpose; God dwells with you, you dwell with Him. At the end of this life, if you are dwelling with God, don’t be afraid, it’s a joy. Because the God you’ve been dwelling here through the Bible whom you do no see, Revelations tells us in Chapter 21:3 “Now, the dwelling of God is with men and He will live with them forever” Hallelujah! So begin to practice dwelling with Him now, because at the end of your life, you will dwell with Him forever
- The second point of this text is v 15-16; Experiencing the word. Always, never forget, that the Word became flesh; the Word became flesh. If there is any trouble in Nigeria, in this country, is that the country is looking for those human beings who have become children of God and are dwelling in the society, they have become flesh and blood and they can touch them, they will poke you, they will pinch you and you will respond like Jesus did, the Word became flesh! Don’t just speak it, live it. We cannot finish this service and then you will go out and behave any different. If you do, the word does not become any flesh. That is the crisis in ALL the institutions in our country; people are waiting to see children of God that they can touch, that they can feel and they poke you to see how you will get angry and they see your response is different. They cheat you, your response is different, they tell lies against you, your response is different, they oppress you, your response is different; because the 3 principles guidance that will help any child of God is: do not cheat, do not lie, do not steal. You are not doing it like them; your response is different. Hebrews 4:12, listen to what the Bible says “For the Word of God is living, active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing the division of the soul and of the spirit and of joints and marrows, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”. That’s what the Word of God does. It enters us; He knows our thoughts and enables us to respond to God so that we experience God. The Word of tells us where our hidden sins are and we remove them and we throw them away and God enables us to have victory over those sins and weaknesses and failures. Jesus lived this life like us, so He sympathizes, he understands. Jesus does not condemn you because you’ve failed, no, He will point it to you because He will want you to get out of it. You will fail, He sees it, He understands, He brings you salvation. Get out of it. It’s when you refuse to get out of it, then you reject His salvation. He experienced this life without sin. Whatever it takes under God, let today and the days ahead be for each one of us an experience of walking and living in God. Let us make the dwelling of God a reality in our homes, in our market places, in the school, everywhere, because we pray it everyday ‘your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. It makes no sense if we pray that prayer and we do not insist to demonstrate the will of God where we are in this life. We must be in the business of seeking to know God
- Knowing God v.17 & 18
John says, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Christ. No one has ever seen God, the only God who is at the Father’s side, He (Jesus) made Him known” Amen. Knowing God! I quote J.I.C Parker, he was my teacher, this is what he said to us, it is actually in his book, “Knowing God”: “When you know God, you will know that men are not God”! When you know God, you will know that men, no matter how powerful, no matter how occultist and devilish, no matter how wealthy, no matter how protected, no matter who they are, they are not God. But when you don’t know God that is when you think a man is your god. If you are not connected to him, you will not get what you are looking for. You think that man determines your promotion; man determines what you eat, where you go. Man, he threatens you “I will kill you”. Excuse me; if it is a man, if you know God, you know he is not God. He cannot do anything except God allows it. John tells us that God revealed Himself to Moses and He commanded Moses to write what we now know as the Torah, the Word. So if you want to know God, you go to the Word; God revealed Himself in the Word. Get deep in the study of the word, get deep in the study of getting the word of God into your heart, get deep in the study to know the word to guide your life. All of our lives are dotted throughout the pages of Scriptures, word by word, where you go, where you don’t go, who you meet, who you marry, what you do, your successes, they are there in the Scriptures, they are not hidden. How did I get to where I am? As a young 19-year old boy, I gave my life to Christ; while people were going this way, the Lord was calling me this way. My classmates were laughing at me, they did. When they bought cars, I was riding bicycle in this city. When they were building houses, I was in the villages. When they graduated with their degrees I was still struggling with a diploma but I was following God one day at a time. The way people married, I met my own differently; it is in the Bible and I have said it to her many times and people have heard me say it; if I didn’t marry her, I won’t be here, it’s in the Bible. If you follow God in His word, He will guide you, He will lead you, He will reveal Himself to you. God does not reveal Himself carelessly, keep the word in your heart, David said “Your word have I kept in my heart that I may not sin against you. Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” The word, the word of God will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the word of God. God is not your enemy; you are your own enemy if you abandoned the word. Jesus is the fulfillment of the word and the Word became flesh. He is the revelation of God. He lived it, Jesus lived it, He showed us how to love; He loved even Judas Iscariot, the one who was to betray Him. He saved the wedding party from disappointment, He didn’t laugh at them, He saved them from it; He calmed the storm, He heal the sick, He healed me, He performs miracles, God does if you hang to His Word. That is why John says this Word is full of grace upon grace; don’t limit the description of grace to forgiveness of sin. Listen, grace will help you jump the gutter you cannot jump, grace will help you pass exams that you are afraid of; grace will open a door for you when the door was closed when the last person went in, grace is that power of God for those who are dwelling in the word that does the impossible and they said who did it? It is ordinary this one. Grace helps you see miracles when other people are doing effort, their doing their effort.
Both grace and truth Jesus revealed because God does not lie, the only thing God doesn’t do is to lie; so when you lie, you belong to the devil because Jesus said so, when you lie, when you slander, when you envy, jealousy, you belong to the devil. Truth, Jesus says is the only thing that takes you to the way and gives you life and leads you to God. Anytime you stand for the truth, you speak the truth, you live the truth transparently, what do you do? You reveal who Christ in you is. When you lie, Jesus leaves you because He is not a liar; He is a enemy of lie. You must be an enemy of lie so that grace and truth will abide in you. God has made Jesus known, v.18. Jesus has made God known.
As I end, let me tell you, it’s not a secret, God reveals Himself only to those who seek Him; if you don’t seek Him, you will NEVER know Him, you won’t even find Him. Let me confirm this to you; Isaiah 55:6-7 “Seek the he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man, his thoughts, let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon”
Seeking to know God is the way to go in 2023. That is the ONLY way. Let’s begin to seek him from day one. Those who know me know that I advertise good devotionals…Everyday spend one hour with God…. Let the word of God richly dwell in your heart. Spend one hour reading the Bible through the year; you will not regret it…
Our brothers wake up by 4am to pray, I don’t know why you are still sleeping by 4am…God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life if you choose to seek the Lord. Those who seek Him will always find Him, those who seek with all their hears and diligently do so and make a decision to work in His ways and obey His word will never get lost. Those who seek to serve him must also love the word, keep it, live the word and make the word known.
Jesus made God known, that is our assignment this year.
We must make God’s word known by;
- Seeking the Word,
- By obeying the Word and
- Following the Word.
Let us pray.