Sunday service 14 March 2021 – The Holy Spirit works where there is unity

Introduction Jabulani Dube

We thank the Lord that He has brought us together like this. Last week, our king and father passed away. We mourn for the royal family, the Nkosis and the Zulu nation.

At one time we went to the king to report what was happening at the mission. He asked, “Why do people want to take what God has given Reverend Stegen? They are jealous.” He then prayed a lengthy prayer. When we left the king, we were strengthened because we felt that God had heard his prayer. Congregation members and others also prayed and soon after that God took over and worked.

One day, when I was a young man, I shook the king’s hand and did not want to wash it thereafter for fear of removing the blessing of his handshake. The king treated everyone in the same way. We mourn with the royal family. We have lost a hero. Rev Stegen and the king were friends. He is heartbroken and he sends his condolences to the family. When Rev Stegen was unwell, the king visited him. When Rev Stegen lost his wife, the king did not attend the funeral but came thereafter to mourn with Rev Stegen. He was a king to all people.

One day in Durban, on the king’s birthday, I knelt before him. ‘Bayethe,’ I said, ‘they want to take their farms and businesses. These people,’ I said, ‘are under your jurisdiction. You are not only the king over your own people but over all the people who live on the land.’ There and then, he called Prince Buthelezi. Someone else arrived to greet him at that time but he asked that person to wait because he said that he was talking with Dube about a particular matter. Buthelezi said to me that the issue I had mentioned had touched the king’s heart. I had awoken the mamba. The Dubes, the Mkhizes and the Ngcobos were advisers to King Shaka. When one of these people speak to the king, he listens to them.

To the royal family, the royal household, the young people, the children, and the nation: We have lost somebody of great worth.

Nico Bosman
Our hearts resonate with Baba Dube’s words: We have lost a king. Although I have a white skin, he is my king as well. We live and work with the Zulu people. He is our king too. We pray that the Lord will give the family the strength that they need and that the Lord will be with the nation.

In Acts we read about 120 people - disciples and others, who were together and filled with the Holy Spirit. They must have been in perfect unity for that to happen. There must have been something special between them on that day.

Our text is from Acts 2: 1-8

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? (KJV)

The Afrikaans Bible uses the same word – with one accord ‘eendragtig’. There was something special on that day. Something was different. It was not just a group of people who chatted together in one place but there was something special and significant. Concordances say that they were of one mind; in one accord; in agreement; thinking the same. They were not just talking in the same way or sharing with one another, their minds were like one mind after which the Holy Spirit descended. This is very significant. They had to be one for the Holy Spirit to work.

It was not always like this. Matthew Henry states: ‘We cannot forget how often, while their Master was with them, there were strifes among them, who should be the greatest; but now all these strifes were at an end, we hear no more of them... They had prayed more together of late than usual (ch. 1:14), and this made them love one another better. By his grace he thus prepared them for the gift of the Holy Ghost…’ Matthew Henry Bible Commentary Acts 2

They were prepared for the Holy Spirit by their unity. They had been with the Lord physically, but they were not united. It is possible that you can be in the Lord’s work, see and experience His miracles but there is no unity. It does not mean that if we are in the Lord’s work that we are in unity with our fellow brother and sister. The disciples had been prepared for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Before the Holy Spirit could descend there had to be unity. If I could say this 100 times so that we could grasp this one point, then I could close the service. After they were one, they were blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

‘Would we have the Spirit poured out upon us from on high? Let us be all of one accord, and, notwithstanding variety of sentiments and interests, as no doubt there was among those disciples, let us agree to love one another; for, where brethren dwell together in unity, there it is that the Lord commands his blessing.’ Matthew Henry Bible Commentary Acts 2

They had different interests, gifts, and things that they liked. In everyday matters, they may have had different ways in which to do things, but they were of one mind spiritually. It is sad that amongst some Christians today there is no unity. Christians think that one day when we reach heaven, that will unite us even though we are not united now. That is a hoax. If we are not one on this earth, we are not going to the same place, we are going to different places. The Lord will not unite us one day in heaven. Is there any fellow Christian with whom you are not one? Beware –he might be the one in whom the Lord finds favour and you will be left out. It is of utmost importance that we are one in mind and spirit and that we are in one accord.

“I have never known the Spirit of God to work where the Lord’s people were divided.” D L. Moody, Secret Power If we are divided, God’s Spirit will stop working. Do not expect God to work if you are not one with your fellow Christian.

I will read a few quotes from a sermon delivered by Charles Spurgeon in 1866. He read the word from John 17:20. Jesus prayed this prayer in the most difficult time of His life.

‘The most tender and touching prayer of the Master contained in this chapter opens up to us His inmost heart. He was in Gethsemane, and His passion was just commencing, He stood like a victim at the altar, where the wood was already laid in order and the fire was kindled to consume the sacrifice…’ Unity in Christ by CH Spurgeon, 7 January 1866 (sermon no. 668, vol 12)

Just before He was crucified, Jesus still prayed: Let them be one.

‘It is significant, beloved, that the Saviour should in His last moments not only desire the salvation of all His people, but should plead for the unity of the saved ones, that being saved they might be united... He was not satisfied that the members of His body should each of them be saved as the result of His death, He must have those members fashioned into a glorious body. Unity lying so very near the Saviour’s heart at such a time of overwhelming trial must have been held by Him to be priceless beyond all price… Among others, there is the bond of the same origin. Every person who is a partaker of the life of God has sprung from the same divine Father.’ Unity in Christ by CH Spurgeon, 7 January 1866 (sermon no. 668, vol 12)

The danger, dear friends, is if we are not united (even though we might have been), God will stop working. Are we of one mind? Are we of one accord?

‘“Oh,” say you, “but there are many Christians in the world preaching this and that and the other.” I am saying nothing of them or about them… I am saying nothing about those who merely cling to the church, I am speaking of the elect, the precious ones, the simpleminded Christ-taught men and women …’ Unity in Christ by CH Spurgeon, 7 January 1866 (sermon no. 668, vol 12)

Spurgeon does not say that every single Christian must be united. It will not be like that. Spurgeon says he is not merely speaking of those who cling to the church, ‘I am speaking of the elect’. He is speaking of those who are in it with their whole hearts, those who are prepared to give everything. ‘I am speaking of the elect, the precious ones, the simple-minded Christ-taught men and women.’

This could be our problem: we think too much. We think we must be up there. We must be theological. ‘I want to be one, I need to say something.’ But Spurgeon says, the simple-minded Christ-taught men and women, those who have allowed Christ to teach them. Those whose motives and actions are the same. These people will be one. True union is the answer to our Lord’s prayer.

Christian, what divides you from your fellow Christian? What has come in? Spurgeon talks about ‘the oneness in judgement and experience.’ It is amazing how we experience things differently but sometimes I cannot understand that we can experience things differently spiritually. Some will say, ‘Look at how the Lord is working’ but others will say, ‘It is dead, God is not working.’ Spurgeon says that even our spiritual experiences will be the same. When we see God working, we praise His name together.

What brings division in your life? “Let us cast off every false doctrine, (Sin will bring division.) every false thought of pride, of enmity (if I do not like the next one), of envy (I want what he has - material things), of bitterness (how many have fallen because of bitterness), that we whom God has made one may be one before men, as well as before the eye of the heart-searching God.’ Unity in Christ by CH Spurgeon, 7 January 1866 (sermon no. 668, vol 12)

Dear Christians, our hearts must be one, otherwise we fail in our Christian lives.

In Genesis 13 we read the story of Abraham and Lot who were related - Abraham was Lot’s uncle. There was strife between their servants, not between themselves. Their servants possibly did not have the same vision or convictions as their masters. They may not have shared their masters’ outlook so there was disunity among them. What did Abraham do? He said, “Let us rather separate than be divided.” Abraham was not only prepared to separate but he was prepared to give Lot the first choice of the land so that there would not be any division between them. We must often be prepared to give up that what we want. Abraham had dreams. He had a flock which he wanted to grow. He wanted good land and water, however, in order that they were not divided, he said, “Lot, you can take the best, but let there not be disunity.”

What brings disunity between you and your fellow man? Rather separate than live in disunity. It is better that one person packs his bags than continue living in disunity. If there is disunity, we lose God’s blessing, the Holy Spirit and His working. Let us rather separate – you go and live for the Lord where you want, and I will live for the Lord where I want because disunity will end the Lord’s work.

I will read a short text from Chapter 4 of God among the Zulus: ‘The more we studied Acts, the more our hearts were broken. We reached the verse where Peter, John, James, Philip and all the others were gathered in the upper room in prayer. Even the women were there, and the brothers of our Lord, and Mary, His mother. It is written that they all continued with one accord in prayer. This happened before the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost.’ It had to be like that: 100% oneness before the Holy Spirit could be poured out. ‘The Lord’s death on the Cross, His resurrection, and the events leading up to the Ascension were enough to unit these people in prayer. To me, this seems to be the greatest miracle of all: the unity of the Christians.’ God among the Zulus Rev Erlo Stegen

They were of one mind. Are we still of one mind? Are each one of us who wants to follow the Lord, of one mind? Abraham was prepared to separate. How often do we not see parents divided over their children? It is sad when it happens, it is dangerous when it happens because the Holy Spirit will stop working, in the lives of the parents and the children’s lives as well. Parents are divided because of their children who do not have the same spiritual insight as them. If the children want something, they are unhappy which causes the parents not to get along. Look at Abraham’s life – parents, it is better to separate. Separate instead of bringing division. It is hard but we cannot afford to lose unity. Like Abraham, you need to give up or let go of something for the sake of unity or else you should leave. Parents, we have all the help we need. If there is disunity, go to an older person for help, otherwise we become carnal Christians. Simply put, being a carnal Christian is when you concentrate on that which you see in front of you. You do not look at things spiritually. You say, “I want this now. My poor child is going to lose out.” This breaks the unity and stops the Holy Spirit from working.

I will read from a sermon by Rev Stegen entitled: Why does revival come to an end? (6 March 2019)

‘…one opposes another, one is against the other. Even the spirit and flesh oppose one another. The flesh is against the spirit, even if they are Christian, the carnal Christian, the one who just sees just the things in front of him, not the spiritual, the carnal Christian will always oppose the spiritual and the spiritual cannot go along with the carnal. Do you now understand why Christians are at loggerheads with one another? A carnal Christian will always fight. He is the biggest enemy of the spiritual Christian. Our opposition does not come from the heathen, but from the carnal Christian. A carnal Christian in the kingdom of God is a curse to the work of God. In this way, the devil from hell has got his angels amongst the Christians. That is why Romans 8 says that to be carnal brings death. A carnal Christian goes against the Spirit of God and that which is spiritual. Pray that you will not be carnal because then you will be in the wrong camp. You will not be fighting with God but against Him.’

Are we in total unity with our fellow Christ-taught Christian? Is there one person of whom I can say ‘I am not in unity with him?’ If that is the case, sort it out.

When they gathered for this Pentecost feast, there were many other people who were not in that room and when they saw what had happened, they were amazed. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. There were devout men from all over the world, but they were not in unity in that room. I do not know why, or what they thought, but somehow, they missed out. They missed the bus. They were not on the station. They might have thought that it was not necessary. They may have known but thought they did not need to go there, or that they would do things their way. I do not know exactly what the reason was. It is possible to be devout Christians but miss the mark and the blessing and working of the Holy Spirit.

This morning, Baba Mfundisi prayed with me and said, “Lord, please work.” This is what we need. We need the Holy Spirit to work, but if we are not united, we stop Him from working. We can pray until we are blue in the face, but God can stop working. Unity - the Holy Spirit came down but disunity - He will stop.

What is my life like? My talk? My walk? My work? Everything I do? Do I separate or do I bring together? This does not mean one cannot get a hiding. In the past after you had given your child a hiding in the right way, that child only wanted to sit on your lap. That hiding created unity. A hiding done in the correct way can bring unity. Do not think that if I give a hiding, I divide, or if I get a hiding, I must sit and sulk saying, “This is too difficult for me, it is too hard.” Even Jesus sometimes spoke very harshly to his disciples but the fruit of that was unity – they were brought together because of it. The fruit will show whether it was done in the right spirit, except of course, if I do not accept it.

Dear Christian, what takes away your unity? What stands between you and your fellow men; between you and God? When Jesus prayed, He said, “Let them be one as I am one with the Father.” This unity should be between us, the unity of the triune God. Let us remove the sin that divides.

May the Lord help each one of us that we will have and strive for that unity so that the Holy Spirit can work in such a way that the people will stand amazed. Sometimes things need to get difficult in order for there to be unity. When those storms come, may we pull together, become united and not flee in all directions. Sometimes when the storm comes, it is then that we find many different ideas, but may it not be like this in our lives.

Conclusion Michael Ngubane

We thank God for this word. This very word has exercised me, as well as this amazing prayer of the Lord Jesus. He was not praying for the heathen, He prayed for His inner circle who were close to Him. This is what consumed Him. He said that He needed to go to Jerusalem. He realised that it would not come right unless He went there. He had to go to Jerusalem because it was there that that for which His father had sent Him would be fulfilled. Many did not understand that. Peter did not grasp it which is why he rebuked the Lord and was himself rebuked by Jesus when He said, “Get behind me Satan. You do not see things the way God sees them. You do not understand things in the right way.” Jesus had to go to Jerusalem for this great work to be accomplished among His disciples. Jesus knew His disciples intimately. He knew their condition and how often the flesh played a role. There was strife, disunity, and selfish ambitions. Jesus realised that it was not how it should be. They were not where He was. They were busy with their selfish ambition at a very critical time when Lord Jesus was experiencing the pangs of death. They did not have the same spirit.

Jesus interceded fervently for His disciples before His heavenly Father so that they too may receive the same unity of Spirit that He had with His heavenly Father. It is not something we should take glibly, it is a very deep spiritual truth. We should examine ourselves before the Lord and ask, “Lord, do I have the unity that You and the Father have?” The Lord Jesus prayed that we should have unity of the same calibre that He and the Father have.

We should not allow this truth of the flesh and the Spirit which are at enmity with each other, in our midst. They can never go along together. If you come to a person who walks in the Spirit with your carnal outlook, your carnal way of thinking and your carnal attitude, how can you be one? How will you see things in the same way? It is impossible. Brethren, faith costs something. It costs you everything. Your life. You need to lay your life on the altar and die to yourself. When Abraham became aware of the disunity, he went to Lot and although it cost, he put it on the altar because he wanted no disunity between them. If we want unity, we must be prepared to humble ourselves and die to ourselves. If I have a different way of looking at things and I say that my way is the right way and I fight for my way because it is the right way, what does it help if it leaves no peace and unity? We should examine ourselves and see whether we are still prepared to pay the price, humble ourselves and lay our lives aside in order be that sweet fragrance. A person may fall into the danger of thinking that he is the only one who is right and everybody else is wrong. Why should he humble himself and lay his life aside?

We thank God for the work at KSB mission that He started among His people – those who were before Him, day and night, crying to Him. He dealt with them. They died to themselves. They gave up everything so that God would work among them. We inherited that from them and we thank God for that. They were prepared to pay the price. It is now our responsibility to see what there is in our lives and the lives of others that can stop the work of God. We must deal with those things.

How wonderful that we still have those who have gone before us that we can learn from them, not that we bring our own ideas and ways. We want to learn from their example, follow it and accept rebuke. We do not want to go own way and start a new way.

Abraham said to Lot, “Let us not have any division. If you go this way, I will go that way.” May the Lord help us to follow that same example. We want to be prepared to pay the whatever price so that our generation and those that follow will still be blessed. We want them to be blessed by our perseverance that they may be saved.

Jesus was prepared to pay the price and go to Jerusalem. We see the result later when the Holy Spirit came down and transformed and renewed them. The timid became courageous. The self-willed died to themselves and lived self-sacrificial lives. That is what Jesus paid for on the cross. We can only thank the Lord Jesus that He did not listen to Peter and that He was not deviated. He was willing to pay the utmost price and because of that we received the Holy Spirit in our midst.

If it had not been for the Cross, what would we be today? The cross was heavy and rough. It bruised Him. He was mangled and His body was unrecognisable, but He was prepared for that road. Can we take it lightly? Does this not mean anything to you? Jesus went that way so that you should no longer sin but turn away from it. The light of the Gospel came. Do you just easily want to let it go, sell it or lose it? If it costs to bow, Lord make me willing to bow and die to myself in order that You may live and that Your will is done. May we allow nothing to enter that will disturb this unity amongst us, but that we will be perfectly one with the household of believers.