Sunday service 22 August 2021 – Are you in Christ or not?

We greet you from a cold and wet KZN. We are thankful for the rain the Lord has sent.

We live in difficult and different times. They are uncertain in many ways. We seem to hear daily about someone who has passed away - people who are close to us and with whom we work. Although it is hard, we must remind ourselves that God is in control, He is still on the throne, and everything is in his hands.

One hears of many challenges, things that we have never known before. It feels like Satan is rampant. He is trying harder than ever to deceive, pull us down and distract us. It could be that things are difficult where you are. The devil can remind you of things of your past and make it difficult for you.

Years ago, a person told me all his challenges, things that had happened to him in the past that were unfair, things from the present which were difficult, and it seemed as if he wanted to give up. These things were real. I did not know how to answer the person. I asked Rev Stegen how one can answer such a person. At first, he said nothing. He began speaking of other things and then after a while he stopped and said, “Tell that person that everything works for our good if we love the Lord.” Everything. Good, bad, trouble – everything – will work for our good if we love the Lord. If that difficult situation does not bring you closer to the Lord, do you really love the Lord? Let us use every opportunity and difficulty and ask the Lord how this can bring us closer to the Lord. Then everything will be a joy and will be something good.

20 After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to meet him. 21 But he sent envoys to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” 22 Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Necho from the mouth of God but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. 23 And the archers shot King Josiah. And the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.” 24 So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. And he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. 2 Chronicles 35:20-23

King Necho was unknown. There is very little about him in the Bible. I could find nothing that indicated that he was God-fearing or that he served the Lord, however, the Lord spoke to him. It may have been through a dream or a vision, but he knew that the Lord had spoken, he knew that it was God. There was an urgency in his command. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you. God has told me and I must do it as soon as possible. Do not get in my way. Is there still an urgency in your life to do God’s will? Is there still a desire to do God’s will daily? When I get up in the morning, is my question: “What do you want me to do today?”

Necho was an ungodly man, but he knew that God had spoken, and he could waste no time. Very often the world can teach us something. Often the world will tell you what is right and wrong. It is often Christians who do not know what to do. Heathens say that God is doing miracles among you, yet some Christians do not even notice. They only see the negative things that happen. It should be the other way around. Rev Stegen often says, “We should be an example to the world. If we serve the Creator, we should be an example to every person on earth.” Are we an example to the other religions? Can a Hindu or Muslim say that he wants what I have? In everything I do, whether business or shopping, can they say, that is what I want? If you walk in town, can Muslims look at you and notice the way you dress and desire it? If you cannot win them, search your life to see whether you are not dead. Boys and girls, can the world say that you have something? It should be like this. If not, there is a problem.

This incident with King Necho shows us that we may sometimes experience situations differently to how we expect them. Josiah did not listen to Necho. He may have thought that Necho knew nothing about God. He may have thought that this is not the way he receives commands from God. We cannot put God in a box and say that He should speak in a particular way, otherwise I will not listen. (By this I am not saying that we should listen to the world and the ungodly.) We must have an ear to hear. Long ago someone told me about a life insurance salesman who came to their house and tried to sell a life insurance to his mother. He lived alone with his mother. His mother declined and said that she would trust the Lord and He would provide for her. Not long after this his mother passed away. He lived a very difficult life thereafter and was unable even to buy food. He told me that he believed that it was the Lord who had sent that salesman to his house. If they would have listened, things would have been different. God sometimes sends something, and if you listen, He will provide in a way that you do not expect.

Let us look at King Josiah.

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them. And he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins all around, 2 Chronicles 34:1-6

Children, do not say that you are only 8 years old - what do I know? Parents do not say my daughter is only 10 years old, she does not know any better. This 8-year-old did what pleased God. You are not too young to serve the Lord and do what pleases God.

14 While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord given through[b] Moses. 15 Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan. 16 Shaphan brought the book to the king, and further reported to the king, “All that was committed to your servants they are doing. 17 They have emptied out the money that was found in the house of the Lord and have given it into the hand of the overseers and the workmen.” 18 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king. 19 And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes. 

He is known for the religious reforms he undertook and for celebrating the Passover. He was a godly man who did what pleased God. From a young age he did what God wanted.

In 2 Chronicles 35 Necho marched up to fight another king, not Josiah. Josiah felt threatened and decided to attack him. Necho said, Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you. 22 Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. 23 And the archers shot King Josiah. And the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.” 24 So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. And he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. 

What went wrong, King Josiah? How did you get to this point? After all these years of doing what was right in God’s sight, now without God? It seemed that he lost what he had had. Another translation says that he persisted in his way. He was warned but his mind was made up. He wanted to do it his way. His end was death. What made him reach this point? He might have felt strong. He did everything. He rebuilt the temple; he celebrated the Passover. After all that he had done for the Lord, he could now do what he wanted. The Bible teaches us that if we think we are strong, we should be careful that we do not fall. I can fall into this trap too. I do everything for the Lord, so now I think I may watch what I want. I can read what I want, I am strong. I can deviate a little and do what I want. Be careful that you do not fall. Be aware of this.

King Josiah might have just grown cold. He reigned for 31 years. The Passover was celebrated in the 18th year of his reign and then this event took place. For 13 years nothing was written about him. The text moves from year 18 to year 31 and then he died. He may have grown cold and forgotten the Lord. He may not have been on fire as he should have. Are we still on fire as we should be, as we were in the beginning? Do you still remember the day you met the Lord and said that you wanted to serve Him? Do you remember that you wanted to tell the whole world? Do you remember saying that you want to give the Lord everything and not hold back anything? King Josiah gave his own cattle for the Passover. It is seldom that a king did this. His cattle were the Lord’s cattle. Am I still where I was? I should be more than what I was. Is there still fruit from my life as there used to be? Is there no fruit from your life anymore - like this king? Ask the Lord why there is no fruit from your life anymore. If not, our death will be like that of Josiah.

Josiah persisted in his way. Are you a hard-headed, stubborn person? A person without a soft heart? A person who cannot be helped, who persists in his way. Even if you are warned and it does not work. In God’s eyes, stubbornness is like witchcraft. God puts stubbornness on par with witchcraft. “I am not a witch. I am not involved in witchcraft,” but your stubborn head is just like that. You stubbornly follow your way; you say you want to do it like this. Your death is coming. But in your work, death is all around you already. You can see there is no life in what you are doing. You say, “I am doing God’s work, but everything is failing.” It could be because it is not the right time, but it could also be your stubborn head - which is why you keep bumping heads with people because you want to do it your way.

Josiah never inquired of the Lord. He saw the army approaching and marched towards it. He did not ask the Lord before he went. King Necho told him that God had sent him, so he should not stand in his way. Josiah could have asked the Lord whether he was doing the right thing. He persisted without inquiring of God. He continued without prayer.

One day I was with a man of God. He got up from one chair and went to another chair but between the two chairs, he slipped and fell. He got up and sat on the chair he was going to. Then he said, “When I got up from this chair to go there, I did not pray. That is why I fell.” In everything I do, is God in it? We all have tasks - do you pray, “Lord, please be with me.” When I climb a ladder, “Lord, please protect me.” What about all the little things during the day. “Lord, what should I do now? Lord, help me with this.” Pray without ceasing. We need to take every step with the Lord. If we do not, we will fail in what we do.

After Josiah heard what Necho had said, he continued but he disguised himself. 22 Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. Why did he want to hide himself? Why did he cover up his deed? Why did he not reveal the truth? Did his conscience prick him? He may have been conscious that this was from himself and not God. He disguised himself so that he would not be recognised. He wanted to continue doing it his way. Is my life and your life an open book or do we live disguised lives? Some Christians have perfected the art of disguising themselves and deceiving those around them. They are masters at it. They seem to be such good people who are so happy with their Christian lives, but in their hearts and minds it is a different story. Who are you deceiving? Man? You are trying to deceive God who is the One who can see everything. Is your life one of disguise or are you living what is in your heart? You can camouflage yourself. (If soldiers attack the enemy, they camouflage themselves with trees and plants so that they look like vegetation.) You can put all the Christian things on yourself. You can walk and talk like a Christian but in your heart, you know that you are not living as you should. When you talk to a counsellor or an older person, you talk so nicely, you confess so well but God is not deceived. You can answer people so nicely but your heart mocks the person. You try and disguise what you are doing and then when you are confronted you answer with “I cannot remember.” “I did not know.” But in your heart, you knew. Is your Christian life real or is it a way to find a job? Is it real or is it a place to stay and be fed? Pray that God will expose you. Ask the Lord to expose it. Expose it in this life so that you can correct it, otherwise you will wake up in the flames of hell and it is too late. Ask the Lord to reveal it if there is anything deceptive in your life, now. Let the whole world see it so that I can deal with it.

The Lord does reveal it to us, but like stubborn King Josiah, I keep denying it and say it is not like that - you will wake up too late. Is your life in God’s will? Is what you are doing and how you are doing it, in God’s will? If your will is God’s will, you will have your will. Charles Spurgeon. If what I am doing is God’s will, He will do it the way I want. It is not my will but God’s will. Is this what we do? Can I say I have asked the Lord and He shas howed me, and this is what I am doing? In everything I do? If the Lord shows me that I have made a mistake, am I man enough to stand up and say it.

We are privileged to have older people who are double our age. We can go to them and ask for prayer. But some Christians want to do it on their own. In Bible times the kings went to the prophets and the prophets inquired of the Lord. Why don’t you go to older people and ask for prayer and advice? We are foolish if we think we can do things on our own, then later we wonder why things went so wrong.

Allow me to conclude with words from Charles Spurgeon:

Art thou in Christ, or art thou not? Hast thou fled for refuge to him who is the only hope for sinners? or art thou yet a stranger to …His holy Gospel? Come—be honest with thine own heart, and let thy conscience say yes, or no, for one of these two things thou art to-night…. Which of these two? Make no "ifs" or "ahs" in your answer. Answer straight forward to thine own soul; and if there be any doubt whatever about it, I beseech thee rest not till that doubt be resolved.

Are you in Christ or not? It is one or the other. Have you run to Him and asked Him to show you, or do you disguise yourself and live your life the way you think? You do not know the things we have been taught through the revival. You are a stranger to them. Pray that the Lord will open your eyes. Be honest with your own heart. You cannot be both. You cannot say that today I pray but tomorrow I do not. This I will take but not that. You say they treat me unfairly; they do not listen to me and understand me. Give a straightforward answer to your own soul and if there is any doubt, rest not until that doubt is resolved. You know where you stand. Do not rest until it is resolved. If there is any doubt, you are on the wrong way. “Yes, I think so. I am trying hard.” Such responses indicate that you are not where you should be. If you can respond with, “Yes, I know,” you might be on the right track.  Each one will know where he/she stands. Is your life an open book or is it disguised? After King Josiah died, the nation mourned because of his disobedience. King Necho took over and appointed the next king and the people all suffered. The sin that you live with, and disguise will cause suffering for those around you, not only yourself. Be careful that God’s wrath does not fall on all those around you as well because of you. Is this what you want? Make it right today and live a life filled with Christ, so that when you are questioned you can say, “Yes, this is the life I am living. This is what I want, nothing else.” You will never turn back.

Conclusion Albu van Eeden
We must ensure that the Lord approves of what we do. Rev Stegen once said that if you want to do something and you pray and ask the Lord about it and then He gives you 9 green lights and 1 red light, do not do it.

There are some sins that the devil tempts a person with which are blatant: a temptation to steal, a temptation to sleep with another man’s wife/husband, a temptation to lose your temper and hit someone, a temptation to lie to get out of trouble. These are obvious sins. There is no doubt about whether these deeds are sins or not. It is clear. There are other sins, however, that are much more subtle and are not obviously sin. This is what appears to have happened with King Josiah. The sin of pride crept into his life. He may have got involved with king Necho because he was too big in his own estimation. It may have appeared as if he was doing God’s will. He was a godly king. His nation celebrated the Passover and he had served God all his life, but Necho was a godless king. If he would have conquered Necho, he could have won territory for his kingdom and extended God’s kingdom. The sin was hidden. It appeared to be righteous. But it could have been an act of pride.

Paul wrote to the Philippians and said, “Discern what is relevant…” In order to discern we must be sober-minded. This king did not seem to be sober-minded. He had to be sober in all circumstances. This is a challenge for all Christians. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 In every situation we face, there are different perspectives. There is the worldly way of dealing with it - the carnal way, when you fight for what is right but you do it carnally based on what you see with your eyes, then there is a spiritual way of doing things, based on spiritual forces. What is the right way to handle the situation? Should I speak or be silent?

Sin is hidden. You may have a logical reason for what you are doing, but you may not be sober, and you do not read the situation the way you should. In God’s eyes you are arrogant. Although you think you are doing the right thing, you are acting in pride and doing the wrong thing.

Temptation will not always be an undisguised, clear temptation to sin, it may come in a subtle, hidden way - depending on the state of your heart. Are you humble and broken? You will then read the situation correctly. If there is pride and stubbornness, you will deal with it differently. If you do not deal with it correctly, you will bring shame on the gospel of Christ because you think more of yourself than what you should. This can result in disastrous punishment from God - just like this king who was killed, and the war lost. But it can even be more subtle. God can withdraw His hand from your life and deadness enters. It does not matter how much you preach or work for the Lord, there is a deadness in your ministry. God has quietly withdrawn from you. You go ahead in your pride, without God.

If it was so subtle and sly that you have fallen into sin, may God open your eyes to see where you have made a mistake and may He give you the courage to make things right.

Be sober, be vigilant, your adversary the devil walks around. In everyday situations, which are not a big crisis, your adversary, the devil, walks around. The adversary inside of you, the old heart, can also deceive you. What a precious word and example. God be merciful. Help me to walk with you in humility, brokenness, and sobriety.

(In the example used earlier, it is not necessarily that the Lord did not want him to go from one chair to the other, but he did not pray and ask the Lord to be with him and help him as he moved. If you hear people praying before they drive, it is not because they are silly, it is not because they think they are doing the wrong thing when they drive, but because they want the Lord to be with them in that car - because thousands of people die in car wrecks.)