Reverend Israel Kristilere of SheppardHill Baptist Church, Obanikoro, Lagos spoke with SEYI JOHN SALAU on the issues of permissive will and why believers should continually seek God’s perfect will; states his position on the continued border closure and what the country could benefit from it. Excerpt:
What is the implication of not keeping to New Year’s resolutions?
People make resolution because they see the start of a new year as an opportunity to turn a new leave, which is indeed a good thing. It is a sign that we all believe no matter how good we think we are; we need to make improvement and we see the opportunity of a new year to commence such a process that will bring such transformation. But, why people have not been finding it easy to fulfill their resolution is that life itself is not all about resolution. There is more to life than resolution: resolution is good; all of us make it, but we must realise that especially as Christians we need God himself to empower us to fulfill that resolution. Some people have made resolutions not at the beginning of the year, but because it was backed up by the power of God, they were able to fulfill it, and there are many people who made theirs at the beginning of the year and still went back to doing what they said they will not do again. So, I would rather say that while we appreciate people who make resolution at the beginning of the year, we should also continuously seek the empowerment of the Holy Spirit with whom we will be able to execute our resolution. Resolution is our own extension of desire or demonstration of desire to change such behavior but we still need dependence of God as we make effort. So, I will say that while we encourage people to make resolution, they should also stick to God, ask for his spirit to empower them to fulfill that and they will find the changes in their lives.
In seeking God for empowerment as you said; how come some believers still find it difficult to keep to their resolutions?
It’s not everybody who come to church that are really seeking God. People come to seek many things. But, the point is that there must be a time when a man will surrender – the part of which is missing is the surrender. Surrendering to God and letting him know I don’t have the power to get this done and I would yield myself to you. So, surrender; submission; are the things that are missing in asking God to help us. The moment we are able to do that, there will be a great change.
Is it necessary for believers to change ancestral names after their personal encounter with Christ?
Let me start by saying names have meanings and names have ways of affecting peoples’ life. Am a living example: I bear Kristilere today but my father’s name was Awolere. The name you bear gives a message to the world around you, and peradventure that name connotes something negative, there is nothing wrong in addressing it. There are people in the scriptures whom God change their names so that he can change their lives; but I always tell people that if you are going to change your name don’t just change because you want to change it: change because God instruct you to change it. I bore my father’s name for years until 20 years ago and it was at the point of seating down to ask; what is the meaning of Awolere – it means to be in court is rewarding, and as a preacher of the gospel who preaches that serving God is the best and my name is saying something different and it was that that instructed the revelation with which the name was changed from Awolere to Kristilere, which goes well with the message I preach. But that does not mean everybody has to change their name. The point is that if you are changing your name and God is not behind the change of name; it will not change your life. But, when God ask you to change your name, change your life, it makes a lot of difference. So, it should not be like a fashion – it should be something that is spirit led to achieve a divine purpose and there are scriptural backgrounds to people changing their names because of the kind of meaning it connote and the new dawn God was bringing their way. Change of name must result to a change of life and if there is no change of life it results to a waste.
Coming to the issue of marital relationship in Christendom as it relates to divorce; should believers settle for the permissive will of God?
There is no doubt that every genuine believer will seek for the perfect will of God. But the point is that it does not rule out the expectation of a permissive will. And God in his own wisdom gave that permissive will to us as well. Permissive will is not the real will of God but he allows it – it is like a four year of child want to touch a lit candle. My perfect will as a parent is don’t touch it; why, it will burn you. But this child keeps crying and crying that they don’t want me to see the light – ok, touch it. You may touch it and there is a possibility that it didn’t burn you; although that possibility is very rear: at least the wax will fall on his hand. As touching divorce: the perfect will of God concerning divorce is found in Malachi, even in the Old Testament (Malachi 2:14) “for the lord God says I hate divorce” and if God says he hate something; it means he doesn’t want to see it happen. Whether it is justifiable for any reason whatsoever: he said I hate it for whatever reason. But like when Jesus Christ came, he compares the Old Testament (Moses law) with what obtains in the New Testament and said only for marital unfaithfulness. But that also can be pardon and be forgiven if we are seeking God’s will. In God’s own plan the only thing that can separate husband and wife who are duly married before him is death that is why he said until death do us part. Nevertheless, there have been instances in marriage whereby the life of one of the parties is threatened – in that circumstance I don’t support divorce but I recommend separation; and when you do that, it means you are not going to marry someone else: you stay alone. When a man becomes abusive: in the night he brings out cane, knife, bottle to knock the head of the woman; first, second time and we say she must remain: one day when he kills her we will all be sad. So, God’s perfect will concerning marriage remains no divorce; but there could be temporary separation, and when that happens it is a price you have to pay. If God resolves it and you are able to come together beautiful, if he doesn’t you are not allow to marry another person; if you do, you are committing adultery.
But in situation where leaders cannot resolve their personal conflict; how do they handle that of the flock?
There should be no issue they shouldn’t be able to resolve if both of them are truly God’s children. If they table their matter before the lord, there is no way the two of them can be right before the lord. One of them must be wrong – in other words, it is not about the standard the man or woman has set; let’s set biblical standard and let each man’s thoughts and action be weigh by the scripture. Now, if the foreseeable differences are no grounds for divorce but most of the times our ego and flesh are the causes of this aberration that we found in our society. So, if the pastor and his wife cannot resolve their differences and they have to part; I think they have lost the morality and integrity to continue to lead the flock of Christ. The scripture made it very clear that if a man cannot take care of his house he is like an infidel. One of the qualities of church leadership is about a man who is able to rule his own house and ruling is not only about enforcing laws; sometimes you rule by your life, commitment, dedication; showing the good and right examples. If we are living in a society where integrity actually obtains such person should step down for another person to lead.
Away from the church to a critical issue that relates to national economy; what is your position on the continued border closure?
I believe it is one of the approaches that could; and I am being careful in choosing my words here – because turning the economy of any nation around entails so many things. If not for the works of the smugglers we do not have to close our borders since there are good things we could also bring in to better our economy. But, there are also bad things that our people are bringing in to destroy our economy. So, this border closure is a two edged sword – bad things that would destroy our economy are being prohibited; good things that could also help are being disallowed. Now, the government would have weighted which one is higher with this closure; I believe they must have because they have better knowledge on the issue than I do: so I believe the closure of the border to a large extent is in the interest of the country that is forcing us to focus more on what we have in the country, and must countries that have developed their economy did so by producing things they could use and export. I have not seen any nation’s economy that grew or blossom by depending on large importation from other countries. One of the marks of a developed country is the ability to produce what you need and send excess out to others, and make money from there. An economy that depends largely on importation can never – I am not ruling out the fact that we are suffering because prices of things went up; but if we are able to sustain it, the price will come down. A typical example: most of us who never believe we can eat Nigerian rice are now managing it; because our own farmers who are now busy running around cultivating would normally have not done that. The services they are struggling around to render now, they would have had nobody to render it to. So, to a large extent the price of rice may have become costly or double; but if it is sustained the market forces will bring the price down and we will all enjoy it. Countries like China and some other countries that have grown their economy tried something like this. China produces cars today, but many years back they took a decision that no car must be imported – so if we cannot produce cars in our country lets be trekking around; and their engineers started thinking we have to do something: today they are also exporters of cars. So, I believe it is a step in the right direction which is hurting us a little bit; overtime if it is well sustained and the saboteurs are not successful in their efforts, in a short while things will normalised and we are going to be ok.