Hymns have always been commonplace in Nigerian Christian circles, and they still are. Even with the continuous shift of Christian culture from holiness toward worldliness, there are still some things professing Christians have in common, hymns are one of them. This is largely because a lot of us grew up singing these hymns in Sunday School and church service, so they have been a part of us ever since.
One, and perhaps, the most important reason why they are still relevant is because of the truth packed in these hymns. These are songs that were borne out of deliberate and sustained meditation on Scripture. Therefore, they themselves, like the Holy Scriptures, have stood the test of time.
Why all this talk of hymns? You may ask, it is because of all that is to follow in this piece, its title was inspired by a line in the hymn: My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.
The Main Heresy Still
It has been my observation after spending a lot of time around nominal Christians in this country as well as being one myself for the longest time before the Lord saved me, that people still hope to be justified in the sight of God by their works, their good deeds. I can re-echo something Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones said as appropriate for our context, “The main heresy is still justification by works”.
Pastors and preachers in this country, in the large majority, have turned away from the true gospel of Christ that brings peace to the false gospel of salvation through works. Christians have gone away from believing in the full salvation obtained by the death and resurrection of Christ to desiring a salvation wrought by their deeds.
Where are our Bibles?
They are beside our pillows and are, sometimes, even under it like a good luck charm to ward away evil. I know this because I practiced this -throughout my secondary school days- to prevent nightmares…that is not the use of the Bible.
It is disrespect to those who laid down their lives that the common man, and not just the priests, can have access to the Scriptures; a man like William Tyndale was killed in part because he translated the Bible to the English language to enable the common man have access to the Scripture that is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2Tim. 3:16).
Much more and most importantly, it is an affront to God who gave us His Word to reveal to us “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints” (Col. 1:26), the mystery of the gospel.
How are we to know?
To the reader, think about this: How are we to know? How do we know God apart from His Word? How do we know that the gospel is actually good news of the saving works of Christ and not a burden of more rule following to obtain righteousness? How else but by the Bible? But we have neglected it. The pastors and preachers in this day and age are content to talk about career advancement, health and wealth, how to get the master key that will unlock your potential rather than teaching the good news of Christ.
They would rather wander into “myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1Tim. 1:4).
All of the teaching about holiness today is deeply marinated in works to earn and gain heaven. Is that what the Bible teaches? Have we forgotten about the Galatians?
A New Generation of Foolish Galatians
How have we who have read of the Galatians and who, more so, have adopted them into our language in the case of the Yoruba people, speaking of Oponu ara Galatia, become just like them? Who has bewitched us (Gal. 3:1)?
Is the Gospel we profess to believe not by faith in the finished, complete works of Christ? Who has, then, sold us the lie that we can start by believing and then sustain our faith by our works? (Gal. 3:3) How do we who claim that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6) also think those filthy rags can obtain for us “the riches of his glorious inheritance” (Eph. 1:18)? Are we not thinking backwards?
Back to the gospel
It is important, most important, that we fully understand the reason we are Christians. We are not Christians because we can do better than others. We are not Christians because we are more moral than others. Oftentimes, we are not although we ought to be.
We are Christians because we have seen our utter helplessness and weakness in measuring up to God’s perfect standards and have clung to Christ. We cling to Christ because He is the only righteous one; He is the only one that has lived a perfect life
We are Christians because we have seen our utter helplessness and weakness in measuring up to God’s perfect standards and have clung to Christ. We cling to Christ because He is the only righteous one; He is the only one that has lived a perfect life; He is the only one that has offered the acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of those who would believe in Him. He is the only one who has been rewarded with true righteousness having lived a perfect life.
When we believe in Him and all that He came to do–His perfect life that obtained righteousness, His death that is the atonement for sins and His resurrection that validated all that He came to do–we then become people who are in Him.
Paul tells us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2Cor. 5:17, emphasis mine).
When we appear before God, may our boast not be in our actions or what we have done but,
“When we shall launch in worlds unseen O may we then be found in Him, Clothed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before His throne.” –My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less (Edward Mote)
For it is in Christ, dressed in His (Christ’s) righteousness alone that we are able to be justified before God and enjoy eternal life with Him, praising for days unending.