Introduction Michael Ngubane
We thank God so much for his love which is incomparable to anything else. God has been good to us in giving us rain. All the plants, flowers and grass - everything which is planted - rejoices when it rains. Very soon we will celebrate the first day of spring. I am reminded of the Psalm that says, Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! 2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! 3 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! 4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! 5 Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created. 6 And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.[a] 7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, 8 fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! 9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! 10 Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! Ps 148
May we rejoice, glorify and praise the Creator, not that it uplifts itself above the Creator, but praises the Creator. There is a danger that you praise and uplift yourself and think you are something, but pride comes before a fall.
We thank and praise God for what He is doing daily at the mission, great and amazing things. We love Him more and praise Him for it. We thank God for His provision and His presence in our midst. He manifests Himself and His power. We see this and we thank and praise God for it. We thank God for His guidance during these times in which we live. Many observe how God leads and guides us.
Radio Khwezi is celebrating its 25th anniversary next week - it is 25 years since it was founded through the vision of Reverend Stegen. We see how God has used it for so many years. We thank God for men of God who have a vision. God gives them a vision for the future, long before the time arrives, they see the needs of the people and God’s work and they do something about it. Next Sunday we will focus on how God has used Radio Khwezi to change the lives of people. We will do a visual presentation and it would be good if you could livestream the event. Khwezi celebrates the 25th birthday on Wednesday, 2 September, but Sunday, 6 September is the anniversary celebration which will be a virtual thanksgiving service. On the one hand we are sad because COVID-19 curtails meetings, but we accept this is from God. God’s grace cannot be compared to anything. His love cannot be compared to anything. For 25 years God has kept us and the radio station and He has used it for the propagation of the Gospel.
Thank you to Baba Ngubane for his introductory remarks. We farmers thank the Lord very much for the rain. It is God’s grace. Imagine if the Lord would close the heavens, what would that be like?
This morning’s service will be one with a difference. There are times when one would rather be quiet, but if the Lord puts something on one’s heart, it must be said. It is not as easy as you think. Pray for us. This is not an easy task, but we desire to do God’s will.
Yesterday evening, I felt that I would like to speak again about Adam and Eve. I would have liked to have spoken about God who visited Adam and Eve. His visits were like a breeze. They knew God had arrived when they heard the breeze rustling the leaves. This reminded me about the revival - when God came down in 1966, He came through a wind. I said, “Lord, were the wind and Your visits just coincidental?” The devil used something sly, crafty and deceitful. My mother told me once my grandfather had said that a certain person was a ‘sly businessman’. Let us be grateful if we are just ordinary people who are regarded as nothing. It is the sly, ‘intelligent’ man that the devil has used throughout history.
I recently received a SMS. The devil uses people whom you think are clever and who have knowledge. The message said, “Dietmar, are you mad or are you just a stupid man?” I said, “God, thank you that this is what people think of me.” The message said, “What is this about other people’s sins?” I said, “I do not care about other people’s sin, only my own.” The message said, “What did Thofozi whisper into your ears?” This shows that the messenger cannot respect other nations. The message asked, “Have you confessed that which was whispered into your ears?” How does he know about such things? Where was he when those ‘so-called’ things were spoken? If she whispered in my ears, were they there? Does this person hate her if s/he speaks in this manner? The Bible says that we cannot hate other people. I ask this messenger (s/he did not leave his/her name), “Were you there when Aunt Umkhulu (Ms Lydia Dube) whispered in my ear?”
Will you be held back by other people? That is why you are spiritually dead. I listen to God and the Lord speaks to me. Nobody tells me what to say. You will hear it in my sermon. It is God’s grace if you hear God speaking to you. I would be the most foolish person in the world if I did not hear God whisper in my ears. Man passes by but I must stand before God. Because I am a fool, and am called ‘stupid and mad’, allow me to read what I have on a piece of paper here given to me by someone this morning. It is written in Afrikaans. “Die bewerings van bedrog is deur Arno Stegen by die Valke ingedien.” (Allegations of fraud have been submitted to the Hawks by Arno Stegen.) Do you realise why they say I am mad? This makes me mad. This person (Arno Stegen) is a child of this place, a child of Reverend Stegen and he has the guts to attack the mission like this and this way he is attacking Rev Stegen. It is not me who says this but the newspaper.
Oh, brethren, may God keep us. Let us not poke our finger into God’s eye. I remember when God was working in Kranskop, I was there and I was close to Rev Stegen. I remember the exact spot where we were. There are some things which you remember very clearly. He said do not take your finger and poke it into God’s eye, whatever the circumstances may be. Do you see why people say that I am mad? It’s alright. I don’t like to be like this. From the beginning people have attacked Rev Stegen and now you do this. What does this help you?
So this morning something was laid on my heart.
5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ Revelations 2:5 – 7
The book of Revelations is divided into three sections. Chapter 1 is the past; chapter 2 and 3, the present; chapter 4 onwards, the future. There are many chapters from chapter 4 onwards, which indicates how important the future is. So much is said about the future through predictions and prophecies, but we are not in the future yet, we are still in the present therefore let us hear what God says to us today.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.
Verses 1-3 refer to the time between 30 and 100 AD when God spoke about His apostles and what they had to go through. Many of the apostles were killed for Christ’s sake. But what does the present say to us? What must our lives be like now? In verse 5 things start changing. When the apostles slowly began departing from this world, God taking them to Him, things began to change. Things sometimes change slowly and sometimes in a whirlwind. When the next generation came, there was a cooling down of God’s instructions and commands. The Bible warns that in the end times the love of many will grow cold. It is shocking that the first thing that went backwards, that cooled was their first love for Christ. God worked through the apostles; people’s lives were changed, but when the apostles were no longer there, their love waned. That which was dear to them in the beginning, that which was dear to them, which united them, suddenly drew them apart and they abandoned their first love. Friends, I want us to understand, I do not only want you to see this as it happened in the early church but also in the context of this revival. I’d like to bring them together. Look at your life. Where do you stand today? When change happens, when older people are taken by the Lord, what happens to you? What have you spoken about? What have you proclaimed? Was it from a heart on fire for the Lord?
God addresses this first: where is your love? Where is that burning desire to serve God? During the COVID-19 period where you are with your family, how is your love towards Christ compared to what it was in the past? Something has made your love towards God grow cold.
4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Revelations 2:4
The meaning of abandoned the love you had at first means ‘to send away.’ You abandon your love, you send it away, you depart from it. It literally means a husband divorcing his wife. When I abandon my first love, it is like a divorce in my life. I shun that which I knew and had. When you lose that love, that touch of God in your life, that fire that used to burn, you divorce yourself from something you had which was yours; and then you become an adulterer because you take another husband who does not belong to you. You have divorced your real husband who is Christ. You might say that it is impossible. I talk, I preach and I love Christ. The Lord says that He will come one day and say that He does not know you. Do your homework. Do you hear what Christ says to you? Remember when you came, how that fire was kindled - if it was. Why is it so easy to abandon it? Maybe it did not cost you anything or you were possibly never married to Christ. You possibly have never known this in your life. If you knew that first love and what it meant, you would understand why you are as you are today. The Lord says remember from where you have fallen.
Israel was chosen by God. God was their portion. They belonged to God. God reminded them of what they had been like and how God had worked in their lives. In Jeremiah, The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. 3 Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt, disaster came upon them, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 2: 1 – 3
Why did God tell Israel that He remembered their love; when they were married; how they followed Him in a land where there was nothing - just like you? Why do you suddenly turn your back on that which God brought about. Israel was meant to be holy, dedicated and set apart – that is the first love. It is a high calling. But it possibly became too much for you, you had to separate from your own family, and it was too much to bear. You had to make a choice because of what had been burning in your life. Where do you find yourself today? When a person leaves, the first thing that happens: the world enters. If you have not forsaken your first love, you should reach higher standards than before, but now you have slidden backwards.
When Adam and Eve fell into sin, in their fallen state God dressed them properly. He created long tunics for them. But people who have left the mission because of this and that, the ladies begin to wear pants. Things are exposed that you do not want to look at – shameful things. If you live at KwaSizabantu, how is your life? Does it glorify God or does evil come from you? The Lord taught us to respect one other. We cannot expose ourselves. The Lord taught us at the beginning of the revival not to wear earrings. My eldest child told me that Baba Dube has been teaching them the Zulu ways of respect towards older people. It is wonderful that we can live together. I do not understand how you can say you do not like a particular nation and this could be the reason why you left because you could not love them. God brought us together and it is wonderful to learn from other people. Women now wear sleeveless blouses. They are back to where they came from many years ago. God covered Adam and Eve when they fell,but when we fall, we expose everything – shameful things which cannot be mentioned - tight pants that expose everything. Is this the first love? Is this respect? Remember your love that always wanted the best for others, the love that bound us together and strengthened us. The devil saw this (he saw that in the early Church too) and he went and put in a counterfeit love, something that was not from God. Today everything revolves around so-called love. You must love that person because that is just how he is, you must show that person love. Love will make the world go round - you know that song, certainly; it makes him mad. This is not the love of God. The love of God is stronger than anything, it is Christ himself. Look where you were – you were embracing others – but today it is a counterfeit. Yes, God is love, but not the love you are talking about. God’s love is holy. God’s love separates evil from good. God’s love changes situations and it brings about something new. You cannot miss it because you know it, you experience it, you feel it. The first love exposes things. It exposes things in your own heart first, but You are so busy exposing other’s sins but you have forgotten the sin in your own heart.
When you fall, you forsake and divorce yourself from your first love. Why? Because sin has entered. Sin pushes it out. Sin gets rid of it. You cannot divorce the preaching of the evil of sin from holiness. What is in your life must be exposed. If you stop preaching about sin, it will enter. If you are not sharp and careful, it will enter your own life. It’s 100% love for God and 100% love for His work. When a person has left his first love you will notice that his speech changes, his preaching even changes. He says things like, “You are making rules. We have to follow rules, the dos and the don’ts!” But in the beginning when your heart was aflame, it did not matter, it never worried you, you saw that it was good for you. You are no longer one with those who were dear to you in the beginning, you have your reasons but where is that first love, that fire for the Lord? It is sin. It is lukewarmness that drives out that love. Nothing else. That’s why in the beginning nothing was too much for you, but now it is a burden. Do you remember how you used to pray? How often you spent time with God alone? When you spoke to him and he spoke to you? There was something that you felt for Him, something you wanted from Him. Do you remember that? Do you still do it? Remember how you went to certain places to have time for the Lord but today you are too busy. Today you have your excuses. Why don’t you pray like that anymore? We were taught from beginning that in everything we do we should pray.
Professor Orr in the UK always took his theology students on excursions to places where men of God lived. He once took his students to John Wesley’s house. In the house he told them about John Wesley’s life.
(Friends, we speak about Wesley but when we speak about Reverend Stegen, we are wrong? How can that be wrong because he was chosen by God? Rev Stegen would also pray to God and only leave when he had an answer. But if we mention what Rev Stegen did it is like a sin. Why? Because you do not like him, you hate him. We want Rev Stegen to know that we love him.)
Professor Orr explained how John Wesley taught, prayed and spoke about God. He explained how God’s fire was kindled and He came down and worked. Professor Orr took the students to his bedroom. Next to the bed on the floor were two marks and slowly, so that every student could understand, he explained that the two marks were the marks where John Wesley used to kneel and speak to God. When you pray, it is one, two, three, a short prayer or your mind is far away. There is no wrestling with God as these men did. You pray only about you and your problems but these men prayed and shook the heavens through their lives. He continued showing them around and then they returned to the bus. There he counted the students and one was missing. He wondered where the student was. He went back into the house, through every room and upstairs into the bedroom. As he entered, he saw a head sticking out on the other side of the bed, exactly where the two marks were. He heard the student praying, “Oh God, do it again.” Professor Orr went over and put his hand on his head and said, “My friend, we have to go.” Rising from his knees, Billy Graham stood up and joined the others and you know what, God did do it again.
Do you understand? Here was a man who was driven by the love of God. He did not worry about what the others were doing. He was a man who said, “Oh God, can’t you do it again as you did in the time of Wesley.” What drives us? Our work or Christ?
Was the church in Ephesus just doing what the apostles said without a relationship with the Lord propelling them? There was no meeting with God. Have you ever met God and experienced Him? Young people, do you know what it is to pray like that? Can you say, “Oh God, do it again in my life.” Maybe there is still a small fire glowing in your life – pray to God and cry to Him with all your heart. When you fight and resist God’s work, you think you will achieve something in life but I can promise you that you will achieve nothing.
There was once a couple who moved into a new neighbourhood. When they sat in the kitchen, they would look out onto a washing line where the neighbour hung her linen. The woman would often comment on the linen saying, “Look at that lady’s linen. Why doesn’t she wash it properly? I cannot understand how a person can live like that!” Some women can see things like that quickly. They are gifted in this. Every day there were comments. One day they sat in the kitchen again for breakfast. The husband was already seated. The wife looked out the window and said, “Wow, look how clean the linen is today.” The husband -like a wise man - said, “My wife, I decided to wash the window. I thought it would be better for us.” She had been looking through a dirty window and so the linen appeared dirty. Her own windows were dirty. This is a heart that has lost its first love. A heart that has the first love would have done something about it and started with itself.
It is wonderful to hear how God is at work, especially in Europe. It is often the people looked down on that God has chosen to reveal Himself to. Someone phoned me (and I requested his permission to share this): He said that he would often glance at woman. He said that he recently had a dream where he found himself in a bedroom. Different wives, one after another entered his room. He suddenly recognised all of them as those he had glanced at. God said to him, “Those are all your wives.” This man phoned and asked for prayer, for God had revealed Himself to him in a way he did not think was possible. He said that he did not have one wife, he had many wives.
Woman, maybe you are like that woman in the Bible who was at the well. Something happens in you when men glance at you and you love it. That is why you dress in the manner that you do. You love that glance. God said to the woman at the well, “The one that you live with is not your husband. What about the rest?”
It touched me when I heard this from this man. He said to me, “Dietmar, I had lost that first love, I had lost it along the way, but oh, the battle to get it back again.” It was a battle. It took time.
5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Repent before it is too late and time has passed by. You know from where you have fallen. You know what your life was like. You know how you were on fire for God. You were one with everything but today you questions things.
Some say I am stupid. But where has your slyness and cleverness brought you today? God says one thing: repent, turn around, divorce yourself from that evil that you are joined to. What is the cause of your lukewarmness? What has caused your love to grow cold?
35 And some of those who are wise, prudent, and understanding shall be weakened and fall, [thus, then, the insincere among the people will lose courage and become deserters. It will be a test] to refine, to purify, and to make those among [God’s people] white, even to the time of the end, because it is yet for the time [God] appointed. Daniel 11:35
There was once a CEO who had come to the end of his career. He needed someone to take over his business from amongst the executives. He called them together and said, “I am coming to end of my career. I want one of you to run this business for my family but I want to select the right one, someone who is sincere and upright, who will do his best for the business.” He gave each one a seed which they had to plant at home in a pot. He instructed them to meet at the same place and time the following year. He said that they should bring their plants along that had grown and that he would select the person who had grown the best plant. This young man planted his seed and nothing grew, in spite of his best efforts. The others spoke about the growth of their plants but he could not get anything growing. On the day of the meeting, he was so despondent. He told his wife that he would not go. But she encouraged him and said, “You cannot lose anything, just take it!” All the plants were beautiful but this man came with nothing. He placed his pot on the table and just looked down. He felt totally despondent while the others were happy. The old gentleman said, “Thank you for what you have done. I introduce you to the new CEO of this company – Bill.” Bill was the one who had nothing in his pot. The other executives exclaimed that Bill had nothing in his pot. “Just quieten down,” the old gentleman said, “I had boiled the seeds I gave you. None of them would ever have grown. You bought other seeds. But this young man was upright and sincere and that is why I have chosen him.”
The Bible says that the insincere amongst the people will lose courage and become deserters. Those who are not upright, who are insincere although they are called wise, prudent and understanding. The Bible says it will be a test to refine, purify and to make those amongst God’s people, white even to the time of the end that God has appointed.
It is during this time that God refines and purifies. God is at work in every family. I do not think there is a family that can say God has not worked. God is refining and purifying. Now the Lord says that he who is victorious, who has victory in his life, will eat of the tree of life. If your first love is burning, you know you have victory. But when sin overcomes you, things turn around. When God chased Adam and Eve out, they could return if they were victorious and one day we could eat of the tree of life. Are we victorious? Is your life above the things which you meet up with? Then that love of God drives you and shuns what is evil. You may ask, “Can this little coal or ash still burning in my heart ever come to life again?” Ezekiel asked about the bones - whether they could ever live again. The resounding answer is Yes, through our Lord Jesus Christ! Ash can become fire; dead bones can become flesh and live a victorious life again. Christ came to bring life to the church, to redeem and save it for Himself.
Conclusion Jabulani Dube
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. When Dietmar said that he was called stupid, I said in my heart that the person who called him that, s/he is stupid. That person has lost his/her first love. They would not have written this if they still had their first love. If there is something in your heart against your brother, go to your brother and say to him, “Brother I have this, that and the next thing against you.” Dietmar, you are not mad. It is that person who has gone mad. The person has fallen if he sends such messages.
If you have lost your first love, you no longer read your Bible and pray as you used to. God no longer speaks to you. The Bible is a dead book. You used to gather your children together, read the word and pray with them but you no longer do that.
During lockdown you do not attend services. You sleep because there is no burning desire to hear God’s word. Your dreams are frightful. You dream you are being strangled. Evil spirits trouble you. You no longer confess your sins.
Can you say that a person who reports his uncle to the Hawks, a person who was once with us, is spiritually alive? I pray for them that God might restore their first love which they have lost. Nobody would do something like this unless they have lost their first love. What is the cause? Jealousy? What kind of a jealousy do you have against your own relative? Because he is so generous? Because he gives away so much to black people? Many thank Rev Stegen for thinking of us and providing for our needs.