opinionBy Femi Aribisala
Most of today's Christians do not have the kind of faith Jesus is looking for.
Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like putting yeast in a large portion of dough. (Matthew 13:33). While pastors with limited understanding of kingdom dynamics see this yeast as beneficial on the grounds that it is designed to promote the rapid numerical growth of the church; those with better insight see it as spiritually counter-productive precisely because it leads to the exponential growth of the church. This growth is contrary to God's design.
Yeast in the bible is a metaphor for a corrupting agent. The yeast "infects" the dough and makes the bread puffed up and "proud." Therefore, yeast was required to be thrown away at the Passover. (Exodus 12:15). No meal offering was acceptable with yeast. (Leviticus 6:17). Jesus himself uses yeast to characterise the duplicitous doctrine of the religious leaders. He warns: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." (Luke 12:1).
As the church grew from a tiny seed into a small mustard bush, it was as God designed it. But over time, with the yeast of pastors, it mutated into a large tree, something God never intended. It became a freak giant of a tree not in keeping with its genetic-code. It therefore ceased to be God's church when we perverted the doctrines of Jesus on the altar of church growth. It became a counterfeit of the true church, even though it still claimed to be "Christian." It formed an unholy alliance with Rome and took on many facets of pagan mystery religions.
Jesus defined the acceptable parameters of his church. It is small in size: "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32). Its workers are small in number: "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few." (Luke 10:2). Its membership is a small elect: "Many are called, but few chosen." (Matthew 20:16). Its pathway is found only by a small number of people: "Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:14). Therefore, the crowd should not be confused with the church.
Jesus says: "When the Son of Man comes, will he really find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Since according to the reputable Pew Research Centre there are now over 2 billion Christians on earth, more than any other religion, the conclusion is inescapable. Most of today's Christians do not have the kind of faith Jesus is looking for.
In effect, Jesus' parables portray the current deviant form of the kingdom of God. His mustard tree not only experiences aberrant growth; the birds of the air nesting in its branches are demons. They are messengers of Satan: "the wicked one," with the objective to steal the word of God from men's hearts. (Matthew 13:4/19; Mark 4:4/15; Luke 8:5/12). Jesus' portrait is therefore identifiable in its perverseness as the end-time "mystery Babylon" which represents today's Christian church. (Revelation 17:5). The church is "a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!" (Revelation 18:2).
Jesus says: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat." (Matthew 13:24-25). Accordingly, the modern church is overrun by demons who plant weeds among God's wheat. These weeds now occupy strategic positions as pastors, bishops and general overseers. They are revered as "father," "papa" and "daddy," in contravention of Jesus' directive to call no one father but God. (Matthew 23:9). God allows this to happen, just as he allowed Satan to tempt Job; just as Jesus was led of the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; and just as Jesus allowed Satan to sift Peter like wheat. (Luke 22:31).
Out of this adversity, God is nevertheless determined to bring forth his true children. Jesus says: "The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:45-46). This presents another remarkable kingdom dynamic. The pearl is the only "jewel" that is not buried in the earth. It comes from a living organism: the oyster. The first thing of note about the oyster is that it is not kosher. It is forbidden food in the Law of Moses. (Deuteronomy 14:10). The second thing of note is that oysters only produce pearls in response to irritation. When the oyster gets hot and bothered, it produces the pearl in self-defence.
Even so, those who seek the Lord even in the counterfeit church will become his pearls. They will be rescued from their inconvenient places of growth and become God's glorious adornment: "'They shall be mine,' says the LORD of hosts, 'on the day that I make them my jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him. Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him." (Malachi 3:17-18).
Therefore, what we see all around us today is the false church headed by false popes, pastors and bishops. This counterfeit church is large, flamboyant and worldly. But God's true church is a "little flock" of "little ones" led by one Good Shepherd. (Luke 12:32; Matthew 18:14). By presenting the kingdom of God as a mustard seed which grows to become a tree, Jesus was giving a prophecy about the coming perversion of church growth, which is already upon us.
Thus, Jesus' parable of the mustard seed is designed to dispel all grandiose mythical and self-serving expectations of the kingdom of God. But thanks to "Nicodemus pastors," the myth has once again recaptured Jesus' true portrait. We are back again to planting cedars of Lebanon everywhere.
What we have now in the churches is the kingdom of pastors, which has little to do with the kingdom of God. There, personal empires are built through the distortion of the scriptures for the sake of collecting as much tithes and offerings as possible. Jesus says: "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" (Matthew 21:13).
Our so-called "men of God" now include jet-flying, designer-suited internationally-acclaimed superstars. However, true "children of God" are despised and rejected by the people. (Isaiah 49:7). The authentic ministry of Christ is not glamorous: it is humiliating and frustrating. The Messiah himself laments: "I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand, and my reward is with my God.'" (Isaiah 49:4). Therefore, today's celebrated pastor is a contradiction in terms.
This is the Lord's final verdict: "Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:11-12).