Introduction Jabulani Dube
For the first time after a long period, co-workers are visiting branches of the mission for the Sunday service today.
Albu van Eeden
The topic of today’s sermon is love. Love is a very central part of the Bible. In the Old Testament, the first and greatest command is: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind. The Lord Jesus repeated it in the New Testament. He also said: By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another. John 13:35
And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. Matt 24:11,12
A whole book in the Bible refers to the love between the bridegroom and the bride which reflects the love between Christ and His church.
Paul says: So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor13:3
Friends, love is the central theme of God’s word, however, the meaning of the word love has been attacked by Satan to such an extent that when people read about love in God’s Word, they do not have the foggiest idea about this love. Many think that it is a carnal, human love. Many understand it as a Hollywood love. Many Christians believe that the love between a married couple should be a Hollywood love which is based on carnal feelings. Friends, we are all ruled by a love. I believe that it is good to see what type of love rules our lives (including the love between a husband and wife), and for this reason let us turn to Psalm 45:10,11.
10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father's house,
11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him. Psalm 45:10 – 11
This text speaks about the love that a foreign princess should have for her husband of a different nation. This is how the people from the royal house married. A king took a bride from a different nation - as was the case with Queen Esther who married King Xerxes. This concept gives us an idea of the kind of godly love that God expects even in our marriages. Before I expound on this love, I would like to speak about the love that usually takes the place of the love God speaks about.
The most common love that people across the world have if they do not have the love of Psalm 45, is the love for self, the love for myself. If you do not have the right love, you will automatically have this love.
2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? Ezekiel 34:2
What was the problem of the shepherds of Israel? They loved themselves more than they loved the sheep. They fed themselves rather than feeding the sheep. What has the effect of the COVID epidemic had on you? Have you started feeding yourself, minding your own business and living for yourself? Later God says, “I will make you my enemy from now on - you shepherds who have been feeding yourselves.” Do not say that this word is meant for pastors and I am not a pastor, I am just an ordinary Christian, so it doesn’t apply to me. Every Christian should be a shepherd because every Christian has a group of people who knows that s/he is a Christian and they look up to you. These people could be worldly people, other Christians, or family members. A father should shepherd his family. Children should be shepherds who live godly lives for their parents, not just live for themselves and their ambitions, to complete their studies, do what they want to do, marry whom they want to marry.
We all live in a community and we should have a burden to share the Gospel with others. Surely you have shared the Gospel with others in the last week or two, the last month. Surely you have tried to be a testimony at work or in business and to create a hunger in people for the Gospel? If you do not have that hunger, I will go as far as to say that you are a dead Christian.
What has happened during this COVID period? What has happened in your congregation? Have you cared for those in the congregation? Have you tried your best to light the fire of the Holy Spirit in the bosoms of your fellow brothers and sisters or have you slipped into this cursed state where you live for yourself and feed yourself? You are only concerned about your own comfort. I am going to say something that could be risky: One can judge the quality and depth of a person’s Christianity by the degree to which that person lives for other people. I will never forget a lesson I learnt from my wife shortly after we were married. (No husband should be too proud to learn from his wife.) We were driving and listening to Christian songs sung by Ernie Ford. One of the songs had the following words: Lord, give me the grace to live for others. Out of the blue my wife said, ‘This is the prayer that I have for my life.” Christian friend, member of KSB, are you living for yourself? Are you feeding yourself? God says, ‘You shepherds, should you not feed the sheep?’
Allow me to read a text which demonstrates how subtly this love for self enters. Some Christians cannot forget their own lives in the world. It remains in their hearts and minds. This text was written by Alexander Solzhenitzyn who was in a gulag, a Russian labour camp, where Christians were punished for their faith. He wrote a piece of literature for which he later received the Nobel Prize for Literature. “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
Who is willing to ruthlessly destroy a piece of his own heart? It is those who allow this line dividing good and evil to penetrate and cut right through the heart. Have you allowed this line to cut through your heart and done this thing that people do not like to do? Systematically and slowly destroy that piece of your heart that is evil. Paul says, …and take every thought captive to obey Christ… 2 Cor 10:5
Is your life all about feeding yourself or those around you? For whom do you live? Do you spend the best times that you have on yourself? Be honest. What do you spend your thoughts on? Yourself? This can be very subtle. You can live for the Lord and in the process, things become hard and life is difficult and you end up wallowing in self-pity. Most of your thoughts are spent on yourself. Do you think of yourself in the sense of what you will wear, what you will have, what you will buy? What do you spend your money on? What do you spend your dreams on? When you dream, is it about yourself or others? I thank the Lord that when I met with this revival, I met a man who spent his dreams on others, how to win them over for Christ, how to make life more comfortable for them, how to help them, how to be a blessing to them. It seemed as if he was empty of himself and dreamed only of the Gospel and those around him.
Friends, that, and nothing less, will give us the grace to continue experiencing the revival. What do you anguish about in prayer? Whom do you anguish for in prayer? Anguish is not going through a prayer list and praying for this person or that department. Anguish is what a woman experiences when she gives birth. Have you ever stood beside a woman giving birth? I have - many times - and with every birth I realise this mother’s life and that of her child is in danger. If things do not go well, the child will die. If you stand beside her, the reality dawns that this is no game. Yes, we are living in the 21st century, but it is still no game for a woman to give birth. Paul says, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! Galatians 4:19 Paul had this same anguish in his soul for the congregations - that they would remain standing, go deeper with God, and grow spiritually.
Brother, sister, have you not lost this during COVID? I was shocked the other day when I heard that people who can tune into the evening services via radio - and which are only half an hour - do not even bother. You say, ‘I will continue washing the dishes…taking this engine apart…screwing in these few screws while I am listening to the service.’ An icy-cold selfishness has started descending on many brethren in the branches. Friends, you should cling to these services, they are more precious than gold! You should stop everything and call the family together every day to listen to the service. The Bible says that in the end times, the love of many will grow cold (Matt 24:11,12) You may have a love, but it is an ice-cold love. The Bible says that due to the extreme immorality and lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold.
A shepherd who loves his flock, carries the well-being of his flock in his heart, day and night. He will do everything in his power to prevent the flock from scattering, becoming divided and factious. A real shepherd is unconcerned about his image and what people think of him. He is concerned about the flock - that they should stay together as one group. The one who is not a true shepherd - when he gets personally offended - no longer cares to what happens to the flock, they can be scattered, he does not care.
18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? Ezekiel 34:18 – 19
If you grew up on a farm, you would know that there was a dam to water the cattle. The cattle were herded in from the veld during the evening to drink. As the first cattle enter the water and step into the dam, the mud mixes with the water and everything becomes murky. So, they walk in deeper to reach the clean water but wherever they step the water becomes muddied. The weak cattle and calves enter later. They cannot walk as deep into the water because they are calves, so they must drink in the shallow water where it is muddy. It is no longer clean water, but it is just a mixture of mud and water. This is what Ezekiel says, ‘You shepherds, you received the pure Gospel - forgiveness of sins for every person who is willing to confess his sins and repent; the pure water of the Gospel which cleanses and saves the souls of the worst imaginable sinners. How do you muddy this pure, clean Gospel? By making compromises with the world, saying, ‘Listen, we cannot be so extreme, so radical! The world will not accept it!’ Therefore, you make compromises and preach a compromised Gospel. You begin preaching a different kind of love; a love that does not demand that people confess and repent of their sins to be saved; a watered-down love; a love that welcomes them in even though they continue with the world and drag the world into the church. Friend, you received the pure water of the Gospel but why have you muddied and cheapened it for those who follow? Do you know who will be led astray? The weak ones, the young ones, the young Christians. You defile the water by saying that repentance is no longer necessary, neither is confession of sin.
Dr Willie Sieling told us something recently regarding confession of sins and what it meant in the Old Testament. The size of the sin was equivalent to the size of the animal sacrificed. For a small sin, a dove was sufficient. For a serious sin, a goat or sheep was necessary. Imagine sacrificing a goat for your sin. You had to walk for many miles at times and everyone would see you and ask where you were going. You would reply, ‘I am going to the temple.’ What are you going to do, you would be asked? ‘Sacrifice for my sins.’ People would notice that you were sacrificing a goat for your sins and they would realise how big the sin was that you had committed. When you reached the temple, you had to place your hand on the animal’s head and cut its throat. By placing your hand on its head, your guilt was transferred to the innocent animal that knew nothing about your sins. The innocent animal had to pay for your evil - your adultery or theft or lust after a woman. While this animal was trying to breathe through the blood bubbling in its throat, you had to catch up the blood which would be poured out as an offering. You had to tell the priest what sin you had committed.
We know that the Lamb of God has been slaughtered. Are you afraid to bring your sins to the light so that this Lamb of God can wash them away - because He died for your sins? Are you too proud to name your sin and receive forgiveness?
Here is another way in which you trample the water and muddy it. When you are confronted with your sin, instead of accepting it and asking for forgiveness, you hold a grudge against the person who confronted you. You become a Pharisee. What the Lord Jesus said to the Pharisees was not meant to condemn them, cut them off and render them hopeless. When John the Baptist and Jesus called them a brood of vipers, it was meant to bring them to repentance. Jesus did the same to the Samaritan woman when He said that she should call her husband. She had to admit that she was living an immoral life with five men. She was not offended by it, but she drank it as pure water. She allowed those words to convict her, and she received forgiveness. But if you are a Pharisee, you become offended when you are confronted with your sins. You hate and hold a grudge against the person who confronted you. You teach your friends and followers that same principle – do not repent as the clean water of the Gospel gives you the opportunity to do, but instead hold a grudge.
The Lord told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the temple to pray. The tax collector beat his breast and said, ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.’ The Pharisee said, ‘Lord, thank you that I am not like this man and others.’ Through this parable, the Lord did not write Pharisees off and say that there was no hope for them, no, He wanted to create a hunger in the Pharisees’ hearts to receive forgiveness in the right way.
A true shepherd who loves his flock will trust in God and remain faithful to Him. He will not teach His sheep to do what the majority wants. He will not teach his sheep to allow worldliness to enter the congregation. Get rid of the worldliness in your congregation! How many hours are spent by the young people in your church on secular fashion magazines – styles of the world are entering the church. A true shepherd who cares for his flock will go against that and keep the water pure for more sinners to come. He will allow the drug addicts to come and drink pure water, rather than find water that has been defiled and muddied by people who compromise. Look at the flock - if the flock is worldly, the shepherd is worldly.
How do you get back at the good shepherd? You do it by welcoming everybody who refuses to repent into your fold. You are proud of the fact that you are collecting lost sheep and bringing them into the fold, but they are people who refuse to repent and accept the grace of Christ into their lives. Then you accuse the good shepherd, saying that he does not care for his sheep and forced you to run after them and bring them in. You are bringing in people who refuse to confess their sins and repent. You are muddying and defiling the water, so that if a bad sinner comes along there is no clean water for him to drink.
All this happens when a person starts loving himself. Everybody will love. But if you do not love God according to His standards, you will love yourself.
What love does God expect of us? 10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father's house, 11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him. Psalm 45:10 – 11
This bride has a new husband, a new king. She loves this king. Friends, if you have truly received forgiveness, you will love Him, even if He is from a different country – He is from heaven and you are from earth.
I was so blessed when we celebrated the tunnel expansion recently. I spoke to Uncle Joe Newlands. I remember one sentence he said: ‘When one sees all the good that the Lord is doing for us, it drives one to love the Lord.’ He began to choke on his words, he was so moved. It was profound. When you see all the good that God has done for us, you love the Lord even more. A true child of God loves God and that is why he keeps God’s commands, not because he is legalistic. The verse in Psalm 45 says, …forget your own people… The Lord wants us to forget our own people - where we have come from, where we used to live. God wants you to totally forget your old friends, your old kings, your old life to which you were loyal.
I will never forget a story that Rev Stegen once related of a Russian pastor who was arrested and imprisoned because of his faith. He had small children who clung to him, but they were torn away by the soldiers. His wife ran to him, but they caught her and threw her to the ground. He had to choose: am I going to deny Christ and stay with my family or am I going to betray my family? He said that he had to die to his sons and daughters – his little children and his wife. He says that during all the years in prison, his love for his family died. After many years he was set free and he realised that he had a new love for his family, which was not a human love, but a godly love.
How different God’s love is from the love that Hollywood and the world teaches you! This bride, this princess was not allowed to long for and dream about her own people. Friends, we are loosened from our own, worldly people. We are not allowed to dream about the world. Do you know why people cannot get freedom from the pornography that defiles them? They ponder over the things they have seen. Dirty, filthy and defiled things become normal to them. The experts say that the person who descends into pornography develops a hunter’s instinct. Just as a hunter tracks down an animal to shoot it, the porn addict hunts for a new word he can use to search to see something more – another angle, another fetish.
In our back yard there are dogs that love to chase and kill cats, and, in our house we have a few cats. The door to the back yard is a stable door. A new and very young kitten jumped onto the bottom door and gazed into the yard. This kitten knew nothing about these dogs. I thought that this little cat was very close to its death. It was just the small door that kept it from a pack of dogs that could tear it apart. You are there but in the blink of an eye you are in trouble and have lost your life. If you are tempted by porn and addicted to it, by pressing one button, Satan throws you to the dogs and they tear your soul apart, defile you and make the filthiest things normal - as if it is done by everyone. One button moves you from God’s blessing to God’s curse.
The Psalmist says that the princess was not allowed to think of the old kingdom. You are in the new kingdom. In the old kingdom you found fault with everyone. I have often counselled people with this problem. If it is two people who do not see eye to eye, I say well, one will have to go and see who is wrong, anyone can be right, however, if a person finds find fault with a number of people, that is quite strange. You are the only one who is right and everyone else is wrong. Do not play that game! There was a man who drove on the wrong side of the highway. He heard an announcement over the radio warning drivers to watch out for the one car that was driving against the stream. That man’s response was, ‘One car? There are hundreds of cars!’ If you find fault with everybody around you, you still have the old kingdom in you. Do not love your old friends. Do not allow the music of your old kingdom to play over and over in your mind.
This princess could not take the rules of the country from which she came, into the new kingdom. You cannot go to church to check out the girls. That is the old kingdom. That is not allowed in Christ’s kingdom. You cannot use the laws of God to promote your own kingdom and worldly standards in the church. You cannot use the church to boost your image and pride.
11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him. Friends, we are the bride of Christ. We have no rights. We belong to Him in everything. He has His own standard of beauty which is not our worldly standard of beauty. Purity is beautiful to Him. This is what the Lord desires of you, purity. Conditions in the new kingdom can be unbearable for a person who lives a carnal life and does not want to walk by the Spirit. If you still want to live a carnal life, God’s kingdom will be an unbearable, intolerable place. If you still allow small things to irritate you and turn you upside down, if you still want to get people back when they have done something to you, if you still want to feel good at all times – that all belongs to the natural man, the carnal man, the flesh and the Bible says it is impossible to please God. If we allow our natural emotions such as anger and jealousy, self-exaltation after we have been humiliated, we will be unable to live in the kingdom of God. We may have been fighting for our rights but when we enter God’s kingdom, it is a different story.
This is the challenge: have I adopted the kingdom of the Prince of Peace? Have I surrendered all my rights? Am I a bond slave of Christ? Am I available for Him to use, where He wants, when He wants, with no rights for myself? COVID may have stolen us out of the kingdom of our new King and returned us to the old kingdom. Whether you are ice-cold in the world or whether you have become a tax collector or a Pharisee, God’s invitation stands. Do not be afraid to openly bring your sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. Do not be afraid to confess and make it known because there is forgiveness for everybody, both Pharisee and tax collector.
If you have fallen away, there is a way for you to return to Christ. Christ will not slam the door in your face. If you are willing to return on God’s conditions, Christ will accept you with open arms, like the Father welcomed the prodigal son.
I have a painting in my office of the prodigal son returning to his father. For me it is the most beautiful scene from the Bible. The son is falling into his father’s arms but looking down. He is too weak from hunger, he is about to collapse but he grabs hold of his father who embraces him and holds him against his chest. We know what happened thereafter. There is a possibility to come back to this kingdom of the Prince even if we have allied ourselves to the world. Christ is standing with open arms.
Conclusion Jabulani Dube
Ezekiel was instructed to prophesy to the shepherds because there were sheep that were limping and sickly. If you are a shepherd, a preacher, seek those who are limping and sick. Go to the hospital, go to that sick bed, and visit the person who is unwell. Listen and obey. When the sheep are limping and sick, take note and care for them. I had a flock of sheep that increased because I cared for them. If they had ticks or were sickly, I did something about it. I noticed how the sheep walked and if I saw it limping, I knew something was wrong. I did something about it.
You heard the doctor say if you watch pornography something happens in your brain. Has the tick of pornography bitten and poisoned you? Today you are limping and sick. People can see that you are limping and that there is something wrong. You were not like this before. Something else has entered. In a family, the children or the wife can see that there is something wrong with the sheep. Take time, sit down, and go through the dip. Go through the process of self-examination. If there is an infection on your neck, be prepared for it to be removed. Do not keep something in your heart. Remove it so that God can help you.
God told Ezekiel to speak to the shepherds and make it clear that there are limping sheep.
We have been encouraged and motivated to take action and say, ‘I have been that sheep. There is something wrong in my life.’ Is the love that you had still burning in your heart? Are you really living for the Lord and experiencing His love in you? Maybe you are sick and have ticks all over your body. You notice a sheep that has been bitten by a tick – there is something wrong. You feel so sorry for the animal. You admit that there is a tick and ask please, help me remove it. But after a while, you take that very tick and put it back onto yourself! Brother, sister, child, you will not be forgiven because the Bible says go and sin no more. If you return to your vomit, you will never be able to live for the Lord. It will be clear that there is something wrong in your life. Young person, if you always return to that same sin, you will never be able to be spiritually alive. If you persevere in your sin but preach and sing or whatever you do, you will not be forgiven. Humble yourself! Cry before the Lord. Be at His feet and plead for grace. Remember, My sheep hear My voice. When the Lord speaks to you, listen to what He is saying. Are you a sheep who thinks he hears God’s voice but looks at pornography? Porn is a demonic thing. It is an evil thing. To gossip and mock is evil.