Recently, there has been a lot of discussions bothering on Christian beliefs in Ghana. Perhaps, the most debated now is the government’s commitment to build a National Cathedral for the Lord. The Christian community is divided over this. While some are in favour, others are not. I do have an opinion myself on the matter, but my opinion is not the focus of this article, so I will defer it for another time.
Some have considered Ghana a Christian nation because of the obvious reason that our population is predominatly made of those who profess the Christian faith. Despite this though, we are a democratic nation ruled by a constitution and to regard ourselves as a Christian nation is misleading. Now in Ghana’s 2010 population census, 71.2%¹ of the population were identified as Christians (Pentecostals/Charismatic 28.3%, Protestant 18.4%, Catholic 13.1%, other 11.4%). This appears very impressive if you are a Christian.
But on second thought, there are things the statistics won’t reveal especially about the authenticity of a person’s Christian beliefs. If the findings of the statistics are stritctly subjected to further scrutiny about what qualifies a person to be called a Christian, perhaps the percentage of Christians in the land will plummet. Heavily!
Occasional Church Goers
It must be stated clearly that it is not everyone who shows up in church who is a Christian. Now in the nation’s statistical findings, some respondents may be people who show up occasionally in church. Perhaps they show up only for weddings, funerals and other christian activities including Christian festivities such as Christmas and Easter, yet, they may consider themselves Christians. Others may show up only on the Eve of a New Years to “cross over” into the new year as it has become popular. These people may all respond to the questionnaire and call themselves Christians. They also responded “Christian”.
There are very respected persons in society, influential and have money who once a while are called to chair church events. These also, because of their respectable position in society may see themselves as Christians.
A Moral Life
Morality is not a preserve of Christianity. Even atheist promote morality. Now some persons in society may point to their moral lives and therefore consider themselves as Christians. The most dangerous is those who are born into Christian homes. Raised in a Christian home, it is easy to count oneself a Christian when infact they are not. Their parents may even be elders, deacons and Pastors of churches but may not be Christians. The truth is that, nobody can inherit their parent’s faith. We must all come to a personal profession and possession of faith.
Signs and Wonders
Another potentially deceptive claim to Christian faith which can cloud true conversion is “the signs and wonders” movement. Many troop to churches seeking one solution or the other, but not Him who is able to save them. When the bread, instead of the giver of the bread becomes the focus, faith becomes superficial: “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:23-25).
Regardless of one’s social status, moral fineness and Christian upbringing, we are all sinners fallen short of God’s glory and must be Born Again to have access to eternal life and to be called Christians. In John 3, Jesus engaged a man whose name has become synonymous to how he approached Jesus. He came ‘Nicodemously.’
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:1-3).
The text introduces us to Nicodemus who occupied a high position among the Jews. Probably for fear of being identified with Jesus, he came by night when he would not be seen with Jesus. Remember he was a Pharisee and they we a sect that run into trouble always with Jesus. To be seen with Jesus may create problems for him. He was no mean person. He was “a ruler of the Jews”. Yet he came seeking for truth concerning his soul. He may have come to a point in his life where he realised his prominence wasn’t enough to save him. Moreover, he was a religious leader and that is where it becomes more interesting. Nicodemous displayed all the attributes described above and perhaps even more and yet he came seeking answers for his soul.
You Must Be Born Again
Jesus’ answer to Nicodemous is a core biblical doctrine by which anyone should identify themselves as a Christian. A Christian is one who has been born again; have had a change of heart, placed their trust and faith in Jesus alone for their salvation and turned away from their sins: “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3). When we say a person is born again, it means God has changed their heart of stubborness and given them a new heart to be able to obey him. All human beings are sinners separated from God and until God has changed our hearts, we cannot have a relationship with him.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly , I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:5-6).
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
To be born again is only a work that the Spirit of God does in our hearts and until that work has taken place, we cannot lay claim to the Christian faith. What we will do is plead for mercy for God to change our hearts and to come to faith in Christ. If this has not happened, irrespective of ones state in life, they can never count themselves as Christians though they may identify with Christianity.
Are you a part of the 71.2% who identify as Christians in Ghana? If you do, you must be there because you are Born Again. Any other reason, apart from the new birth is a delusion.