The influence of the crowd




Introduction Albu van Eeden
Welcome to everyone who has tuned in to seek the Lord. Above the pulpit are the following words: “Lord, stay with us”. There is a mystery behind this concept. It is not a matter of sitting and expecting the Lord to stay with us - when we seek Him with all our heart, then He will stay with us. If we stay in His will, then He will stay with us. There is a danger that I go my own way and pray that the Lord will keep up with me. This is one of the reasons for meeting. We want to discover the mystery of where the Lord wants me to be and where He wants me to go. We want Him to show us where we are getting the lost and going off on my own track. We gather in this way so that the Lord may stay with us.

The Youth Conference will take place from 9-15 July. It will be broadcast and streamed.

We are currently experiencing a third wave of the epidemic. Continue using masks, maintain social distancing and sanitise. It is a fact that the Delta variant of the virus which has killed so many people in India, is in South Africa, mainly in Gauteng, but also in KZN. It is more infective than other variants. There are indications that a person can become infected by spending 15 min in the presence of an infected person. Continue following the safeguards that we have encouraged since the start of the epidemic.

Ntokozo Nhlabathi
I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank the Lord that He has kept us and granted us this opportunity to sit at His feet. It is wonderful to be back at home. I bring many greetings from the brethren at Malelane and Cape Town. We had a wonderful, blessed time with them seeing God at work amongst His people.

God is at work at Malelane. The God of old is with us. There was a time when one thought that everything was coming to an end there, but the Lord has revived His work. This is a challenge - we should regard ourselves as being important, even the little that we have, we cannot bank on. God alone can work through His power. It is amazing to experience how the Lord is using and touching places and situations. Everything is blooming and blossoming. It moves one to see the work of the Lord. God works and touches people and only God can do it. It is touching to see the people’s devotion, their earnestness and zeal.

I was at Franschhoek a while back but the development that has taken place makes it seem as if I was there years ago. It is amazing to hear the testimonies of the people who work there. They were written off by society, but the Lord redeemed them, and their lives are a testimony. We are thankful for the brethren there and the work they are doing. I was challenged. It was my prayer that the Lord will be gracious to my children and touch them to be a part of the work of the future.

It was very special to be with the children of the co-workers at Franschhoek. Their service and hospitality was very special. We do not go out to be served, but to experience their service in the Lord and the fruit of the Lord’s work in their lives. One experiences a sweetness that cannot easily be found through the hospitality of a young wife. In her you see the mother and the mother-in-law. To see how a young husband and wife work together and their relationship was genuine and very special. Even a young child, who is raised in the ways of the Lord, can be open and respectful towards to others of a different race. There is something precious in a child who is being nurtured in the ways of the Lord. It is praiseworthy to see how the Lord’s hand is upon our brother, Ian Engelbrecht and his wife, and how the Lord is using them. If we could have the type of character seen in André and his wife, we would be blessed. This is a challenge, especially to the young wives. Do you still have that loving, welcoming heart, that is submissive? A daughter-in-law through her character, can upbuild the entire family. Woe to you if you lose your calling and harm your family. You can return and repent.  Everything can be repaired and renewed through the working of the Lord’s Spirit. You can return to that character, to that life which God instilled in you and you can a good influence and a sweet savour to the whole family.

These precious things are found in the Lord and in faithfulness to Him and His calling. Once a person loses out on the relationship with the Lord, something happens, the testimony is gone, and your family is somehow missing. People wonder what has happened, where is the sweetness of the life with God? What will it help a man if he gains the world and loses his soul? Just to be a husband with your aims, fortunes and things but not busy with the very essence of marriage and experiencing the Lord at work. We can speak of the love in marriage, one may have a picture of holding hands, brushing each other’s hair, being close to each other, that can be very empty. The real thing is God being central and producing abundant life within.

Oom George from Moreson sends many greetings to the brethren. There are not many people at Moreson but they are achieving so much. Wherever you are, even if you are in an outside branch, do not complain. See the opportunities that there are and with such an attitude, much can be achieved. The people there do not suffer from self-pity because of overwork. It is a privilege for them. They put their heart and soul into everything they do. It makes such a difference when work is done heartily and with devotion.

It is a privilege to have Baba Nxumalo and Baba Madlala with us today. We are thankful for them and for the assistance they have been to us. We pray for God’s blessings on you and your families.

The text for today is from Luke 19.

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. Luke 19:1 – 9

This is a very well-known text, but I would like to concentrate on the word which says that when Jesus arrived at that place, He looked up. (verse 5) This text has often been read and different explanations given, but it is always so rich in meaning.

Zacchaeus was a short man. This was part of his life – whether waking or sleeping – he was troubled by this situation. He was a rich man but some of his own actions helped him to get rich. When Zacchaeus met Jesus, he realised that what he was doing was wrong. Jesus did not ask him how he was, there were not many words of introduction, it was as if this thing which was within him came to the fore. He was aware of his own sin. His lifestyle and sin were obvious to others, and it caused much pain and heartache in others. When Jesus said, “…I must stay at your house today”, they complained. How can He enter the house of a sinner? This teaches us that people read and evaluate our lives whether they please God or not. Rulers and governors rule over us and influence us. We are aware of things that happen, things that are said and decisions that are made. People look on. They realise that things are not what they ought to be but because they submit under their leadership, they do not have the power to do anything about it. Christians are even prone to remain silent. “This does not really affect me. I am happy to live my life in my corner.” Possibly today it may not affect you and your family, but what will be the consequences in the future because of this? We live in a time where everything goes. People do everything according to their liking. There are no restrictions. Laws are being endorsed. Those in authority have a similar attitude to Zacchaeus. They know deep down that things are wrong but because of the times and circumstances they feel constrained to approve. People see things that should not be there, they know the values that need to be preserved, but because of the circumstances, and because they have been ordered, they give in. People do have human rights, and in a way human rights are good, but does it take God out of His rightful place? Does it remove that which God has ordained? God ordained male and female but now people say, “I want to change my outlook, appearance and mentality.” Zacchaeus adapted things to his own way of working. He used his position to do what he knew was not right.

The Lord came to him and Zacchaeus was made aware of the fact that he had taken four times the money from people. He had wronged people fourfold. As Christians, what do we in times of proposals? We say it does not affect us, we are not affected in the choices that we make, but what influence do we have? What values do we stand up for? Are they the ones God instilled and instituted? Is it possible that we as Christians are part of that crowd which hinders Zacchaeus, a short man, from seeing Jesus? We might be the crowd that hinders people from coming and reaching out to Jesus. We are a hindrance – we say that it is the time we live in, we have no strength and authority. We relax, become slack and give ourselves the liberty to do nothing. We may say that it does not touch us, it does not apply to us. Have you ever considered the possibility of one of your children growing up, earning, and having all that he needs? Then he brings his boyfriend and tells you that he wants to marry this man. Or your daughter tells you that she wants to marry this girl. What will you have done to prevent such things from happening? In the beginning God created everything. It was good in His sight. He created man. He brought a deep sleep over him and created Eve. She was perfect and good in His sight, a helpmeet to Adam. As a crowd today, we say we will not be influenced by this, but we hinder Zacchaeus from seeing Jesus.

Zacchaeus met with the eyes of Jesus. He confessed: I am a tax collector. I rob people. He realised that he had to return what he had stolen. Are you hiding in the crowd where not much happens? Only when you come face-to-face with Jesus will things be revealed. Today there are preachers, and very fiery ones, but they are driven by the love of money. They preach to get money out of people. The only way to be helped is when you meet face-to-face with Jesus and He can tell you, yes, you were a preacher, but for your own benefit so that you can get money.

When Jesus came to the place, He stopped and looked up. He looked up because of what the heart of Zacchaeus was longing for. He wanted to see Jesus. He wanted to meet with Him and understand what Jesus wanted to tell him. When last have you made time to meet with Jesus and He imparts everything on His own heart to you? Not only what you have on your mind.

The meeting of Zacchaeus and Jesus had a profound effect on the crowd. The people were amazed that the man whom they knew was confronted by Jesus and going into his home. First, the crowd hindered Zacchaeus from seeing Jesus, and when he saw Him, the crowd that complained. How do we react? Do we have a time when the Lord Jesus comes into us and abides with us? You know the crowd that hinders you from seeing Jesus – stubbornness, pride, recognition from people, knowing that I have an influence, honour from people honour for certain things – that can be the crowd for you. At the very place that Jesus has ordained to meet you at, the crowd could be so convincing and say, “You can never bring this thing to the light. How can you part from this? What will people say?” The crowd, the voices, are trying to hinder you from meeting Jesus at that place.

People may see that your life is in a turmoil. They do not see progress. You sin here and there. You stumble around. They do not know about the crowd within you that you are aware of. You have not cut ties with former friends. You are taking your advice from people you should not be taking advice from which is why your Christian life is a riddle to your congregation. The crowd can be the people who support and help you in your life, your work, your mission and you do not want to disappoint them. You know what the Lord expects of you, and it comes at a cost, but for the sake of keeping your financial support from this crowd, you cannot part from it and they hinder you from doing that which the Lord wants you to do. Jesus is standing before you. His eyes are on you but there is a crowd - your own children who do not serve the Lord but keep you chained to them by helping you in difficult circumstances, buying groceries and supporting you financially, even though you are aware of their crooked and evil ways of obtaining their money. You accept it and in so doing they become a crowd to you.

There could be a friend, or the brethren are helping you, but they have questions about you. Why? Maybe that secret friend that you are tied up with and the advice you get from him. Jesus stands before you with His help. His eyes are on you, but this crowd hinders you from meeting the Lord.

The crowd could be at your place of work. You want to be faithful, but you do not want to be the odd one out. If they get up to something unethical you go along with them, you are just part of the crowd. You do not want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Jesus cannot reach out to you because you are hindered by this crowd. The people you work with steal time. They sit around doing nothing and then write it up as overtime. You know all that, but you are influenced by them, and you give yourself overtime which is not right, you know it in your heart. At night it comes back to you. Jesus convicts you of these things, but you have reasons to evade Him. Jesus is there. He wants to save you from it. He wants to commune with you but because of your own stubbornness and unwillingness, He passes by.

Zacchaeus did not allow circumstances and the crowd to hinder him from meeting Jesus and from allowing His words to reach his heart. His position did not hinder his salvation. He was respected in society. He had authority but he put it aside and Jesus was able to cut through it all, piercing right to the heart of his life.

We are prepared to sacrifice Jesus. I am prepared to say no to Him just because of my friend because of the wonderful times I can spend with my friend. Jesus remains outside. The hindrance can be your own fame, your own surname, the history for which you are known. You can say, “It is the situation that I am in. It is my position. I did not actually choose it myself, the people around me saw how good I was and said that I should be the person.” Jesus has no place. You choose the approval of men rather than the approval of Christ.

It was not so with Zacchaeus. When Jesus came by, He stopped because he perceived something in Zacchaeus. Are you still taken up with the position? You say that you have been entrusted with this position, and you need to be light and salt in this world so you are just fulfilling your task, you can be such a help in this position where you are, so you allow Jesus to pass you by. You may have forsaken the ministry of reconciliation, a time when you could sit down and unburden yourself and you had joy and peace. You could sleep at night and your conscience was healed. But now, your friends have taken the place of this which you knew would be life-giving to you. You allow Jesus to pass and say that you will see to it another day.

Do you still remember where Jesus met you, where He found you? Do you remember how your heart opened and was poured out for Him? But today a crowd has come in between and you have lost this.

Conclusion Dietmar Joosten
Zacchaeus was a very troubled man. He seemed wealthy and respected. When people heard him speak they would not suspect anything wrong, but inside he was a troubled man. He was doing things that consumed him. He must have heard about Matthew who was a tax collector. When he saw Matthew change, he said that if God could do that for him, God can do it for me as well. If God could help him, what stops me from being helped?

He was being consumed from the inside. You know what eats you up from the inside: those thoughts and feelings which destroy you. He would not have gone to those extremes if there was nothing that troubled him greatly. You may have heard things over the last weeks, months and years which have entered your ears and troubled you. You question the truth of what you have heard. These things consume you from the inside. You know it cannot be true but because so-and-so said it, you believe it. Friend, if there is something that is eating you up, it does not matter to what extremes you must go, there is help. Zacchaeus got help. Some sick people cannot be diagnosed by a doctor, but you know what is eating you, you know the thing that has made you rich. You have become rich in worldly things - the things you have heard, the gossip you have participated in - these things are eating you up and you know it.

Do you know how you can also gauge it? If something negative happens to someone else and you hear about it, you are glad. It is ‘schadenfreude’. This is a sign that the riches have that filled you are wrong.

You know that the laws that are passed are wrong, but because you want to fit in and are afraid to lose your riches, you go along with them but in your heart, you know you must stop it.

Lastly, not only Zacchaeus got saved but his whole household. When the Lord helps you, there are many others who will be helped through your life which is why the devil is fighting so hard and trying to hinder you. When you add salt to food, it changes everything. So, your life and my life, should change everything where we are. Our children must change by God’s grace because of this salt which is in their parents. Friends, shouldn’t our lives influence everything around us? Our country should change because of what God has done for us.