Engagement service of Jean-Pierre Geldenhuys & Laura Asnicar
Introduction Bruno Hlongwane
We thank the Lord for this opportunity to meet in His house. We welcome those who have joined us for the first time, as well as those who are often here. We also have visitors who have stayed on after the Ministers’ Conference. The Lord has done so much for us during this last week.
Albu van Eeden
Well, dear brothers and sisters, we have been on the mountain top during the Ministers’ Conference and we have been blessed and now, once again, two young people have taken us to another mountain peak of joy. As I considered this engagement between Jean-Pierre and Laura, it made me think of life that is like a journey on the sea. There are times of great joy, but also of huge storms. Even though today is a joyful day, stormy days will come as we walk this way of faith.
I would like to read a text about an event that took place in a ship on the sea, where the Lord Jesus was in their midst.
We will all encounter stormy times. When I am faced with a storm, I use the following principle: I always pray and ask the Lord whether everything is as it should be between the Lord and me, or whether I am in some way responsible for the storm.
I remember a testimony that Michael Ngubane used in a service approximately 30 years ago. He told the story of a day when he visited Shu-Shu hot water springs with his family. He walked in the river and stepped onto a piece of glass. He did not feel it because often if you step on glass while in water you do not really feel it. There is a danger that spiritually we can step onto a piece of glass and not feel it. When he walked out of the river, he immediately felt the pain and sat down to look. Sure enough, his foot was bleeding and he had obviously hurt himself. He looked quickly but could not see glass in his foot. He returned to the mission. The pain, however, became severe. So, he probed the wound and it was painful. (It is not always easy to find out what there is between me and the Lord.) He could not find anything in the wound, and he thought it was just the injury. The next day and the day thereafter it grew more painful. So, he inspected the wound again. A wound becomes more sensitive and painful after some days. He scratched around in the wound and sure enough he came upon a piece of glass. (Finding glass in a wound is a nightmare for any doctor. Glass is transparent and it also cannot be seen on an x-ray.) He reached the most painful part and sure enough, there was the piece of glass which he removed. As he walked the pain remained. Finally, he decided to just to leave it. After about two weeks the wound became inflamed and sceptic and formed a boil. In the end the boil burst open and in the pus were a few pieces of glass.
In his service 30 years ago, he said that in theory it was simple to ask the Lord what was wrong, but in practice it was a completely different story. We must suffer pain, and sometimes something must happen to cause the boil in the soul to burst open to reach the root of the sin that has come in between the Lord and us. That sermon blessed me because in my experience it is not always so easy to discover. But we must always be ready when faced with a storm, to ask: Lord, is everything right between You and me?
I will request to couple to come forward. Today I stand between them. This is what the Lord has taught us in the revival. It was not devised by man. God revealed it to us. These two people have not had any secret contact with one another. They have not exchanged messages. Each one has wrestled with the Lord to find out whether the Lord was speaking to them about marriage - which is why I stand between them. On their wedding day, I will not stand here; but until the wedding day it is total separation. Jean-Pierre believes that the Lord has told him to marry Laura and she believes that the Lord has confirmed that this is God’s way for her. This is a day of great joy for us all.
The text from Acts is the account of Paul’s last trip to Rome. I do not want to take God’s word out of context or read something into God’s word that does not exist but there were many similarities between the way people marry and this text.
13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore. 14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land.
20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned. 21 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.”
30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship and had lowered the ship's boat into the sea under pretence of laying out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship's boat and let it go. 33 As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.”
36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 (We were in all 276 persons in the ship.) Acts 27:13 – 14; 20 – 26; 30 – 34; 36 – 37
In the end they were saved.
There were three groups of men on that ship which represent three groups of people that get engaged and married.
This first group of men was the prisoners. They were serious criminals who were on their way to possible execution in Rome. They knew they were criminals and they never tried to convince anyone that they were holy or nice people. They knew they lived ungodly lives, but just hoped they would not get capital punishment.
There are people who enter marriage in this way. They live immoral, godless lives and they know it. They sleep around before marriage and do not care about it. They drink and sleep with one woman one night and another on another night.
There was one such young man with me in the army. He mocked us Christians. He had lived with a woman for 7 years and he said to us, ‘How can you marry someone you don’t know? I have lived with this girl for 7 years. I know what she is like when she goes out at night, painted and beautiful. I know what she is like when she wakes up in the morning with untidy hair and half asleep. I know her when she is in a good mood or a bad mood. While in the army he got married. He received a special weekend pass out to leave, get married and return. When he got back, he strutted up and down like a proud cock, showing everybody what he had done and showing that he had done it the way it should be done. He was so happy with his new wife. It was three or four years later when I received the news that he was divorced. It took him 7 years to find out whether it was the right one, and 3 or 4 years to find out that he had made a mistake and he knew it. Then he went from one to the other - which was not a problem for him and he did not try to hide it. He was proud of his life.
There are people in this audience who live this type of life. They chop and change. They enjoy their life of sin and the devil. They know if they die, they are lost forever. They know they are going to hell. It does not really trouble them. ‘We’ll see when we get there one day,’ is their attitude. What a fool to discover the evil of the life you have lived on the day you stand before the great white throne of God when there is no time for repentance! What a fool that person is!
The second group of men was the Roman soldiers. They can be compared to people who live, according to the standards of society, a decent life. The soldiers did their duty. They did nothing wrong. They guarded the captives. They did their work. They may have been proud of themselves doing duty on the sea. They were quite happy with their lives and were respected on the ship.
You get people like this who live decent lives in the eyes of society. They date, and ask what’s wrong with dating? That’s how society does it. They hold one another’s hands, they go out together, they kiss one another, they stay together but they don’t sleep together. Is this the life you live? How on earth are you going to ensure that when you want to get married, it will not be your feelings that guide you to a specific girl and not God? It is in this group that you find the biggest Pharisees.
I will read an extract to demonstrate this to you.
Two theological students were walking along a street in Whitechapel, London in a section where old and used clothing were sold. ‘What a good example this makes,’ said one to the other, as he pointed to a suit of clothes hanging by a rack by a window. There was a sign on the clothing that said the following: slightly soiled, greatly reduced in price.
Are you not slightly soiled and greatly reduced in price? Be honest. Does this not apply to you - slightly soiled and greatly reduced in price? ‘That is exactly,’ he continued, ‘we get soiled by gazing at vulgar pictures, (filthy pictures) reading a coarse book (a book with descriptions of dirty sexual acts) or we are allowing ourselves a little indulgence in dirty or lustful thoughts?’ (Yes, I am a soldier on the ship, a decent man, a theological student, but every now and then I allow my thoughts to run; I allow dishonest and lustful thoughts in my head.) ‘And so when the time comes for our character to be appraised, we are greatly reduced in value.’
These two young people have shown us today that nothing has been ‘reduced in value’. They are getting engaged in absolute purity. We dare not live Christian lives that are reduced in price. Listen to his choice of words, ‘slightly soiled’. Just a few stains here and there which mess up the whole dress and greatly reduce its price. God does not allow anyone in His kingdom who is slightly soiled and greatly reduced in price. Only those who are absolutely pure can enter into heaven.
Our purity, our strength, is gone. Once you lose your purity, you immediately lose your strength and power as a Christian. You do not have the strength to stand against Satan or fight the demons of hell. You do not have the strength to live a godly life in a worldly community.
Spurgeon said the following: Every Christian who lives a pure and godly life in this world is like a coal that remains burning but it is floating in the sea. (Its fire is not quenched. The sea is the world.) The theological student was honest. Oh, for honest people today. Our strength, our purity and our power is gone.
The theological student continued: ‘We are just part and parcel of the general shop-worn stock of this world. Yes, continual slight deviations from the path of right may greatly reduce our use to God and our fellow man.’ Is this not profound? ‘Continual slight deviations from the path of right may greatly reduce our use to God and our fellow man.’ The small sins can weaken our character so that when we face a moral crisis, we cannot stand the test and go down in spiritual defeat. In the eyes of the world, you can be a noble soldier, guarding criminals, but in God’s eyes you have suffered moral defeat by Satan. He said, ‘…as a result we go down in spiritual defeat because we have been careless about little sins.’ I do hope that this young man confessed his sins, repented and became an instrument in God’s hands because if he can speak and preach with such honesty, God can use him in His kingdom.
Both groups were on the ship but there was a third ‘group’. He is a ‘group’ because he is more than a man. He could hear God’s voice in the circumstances, ‘Paul, don’t fear, nobody will be lost.’ Blessed is the person who hears God’s voice telling him when to marry and who to marry. Paul lived in a totally different world to the others, although they were on the same boat and they experienced the same storms. This man heard God’s voice in a storm that raged for 2 weeks. That is why I say that these two young people getting engaged today are heroes in my eyes. They have not only stood against unrighteousness, but they have heard God’s voice. If you want to marry, you must be able to hear God’s voice. It is irrelevant how beautiful the girl is or how attractive the young man is or whether they see things in the same way, whether they are emotionally attracted to one another or not. One thing is important and that is to hear the Lord speaking.
They experienced a very dark time on this ship. The light in this very dark time was a man who said 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship… Acts 27:23
Jean-Pierre and Laura, may you continue in the first place, to belong to the God of Paul. If things work out and you get married one day, you must continue to belong to this God and continue to serve Him. May you maintain the passion for winning souls for Christ. Do not chase marriage but chase after service to God and winning souls for Christ. Rev Stegen has said this more than once: A wife will not find a better man than the one in whose life God is first. A husband will not find a better woman than one in whose life God is first.
Why is purity in engagement and marriage so important? Because out of an engagement and marriage to the right person, new nations are/were born. I would like to read another portion from God’s word related to this:
Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 2 And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, 3 that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell…” 5 The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” 6 Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. Genesis 24:1 – 3; 5 – 6
Listen to what God has written here. Abraham’s servant had to take an oath that he would never dare take a wife from the nations that did not serve God. Abraham said, ‘No, never! My son may not go back there.’
7 The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. Genesis 24:7
Do you know when it is that most young Christians lose their burning fire for God? When they marry the wrong person. They do not marry a person in whose life God is first. They do not marry a person who belongs to God, and they bring a lukewarm person into the family. Yes, she goes to church. Yes, she is attractive. If she is like these theological students, she will bring lukewarmness into your life and you will lose the fire of God that is supposed to burn in your heart.
8 But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” 9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter. Genesis 24:8,9
Was this just a simple human thing they were discussing? Falling in love, getting engaged and married, or was this something loaded with spiritual meaning? From this marriage God could say He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Do you realise how important your engagement and marriage are to God? It can lead to the building up or destruction of a nation. Abraham told his servant to fetch a wife for his son from his people, not from the nations.
Let me close with Paul on the ship.
Before the ship ran aground, some of the sailors tried to escape by boat. Paul said that if they did not stay with them, they would not be saved. I don’t mind which group you belong to – whether the prisoner group who just lives according to their lusts and desires; the soldier group, the Pharisees; here is a possibility for you to be saved today. The prisoners did nothing to help God save them but because they stayed with Paul they were saved. We have our Paul. About 2000 years ago He hung on the cross for your sin. He was beaten and He bled, so that no matter how evil you are, you can be saved by Him, but this is the condition: you must stay with Him, just as the prisoners had to stay with Paul. No one knows how long we will still live, this might be the last opportunity God gives you, but He gives it to you freely. You can escape hell forever, by coming to our Paul, the Lord Jesus, with your sins. Name your sins one by one, and He will wash you from them. Even though you do not deserve it, just as I did not deserve it, to be saved one day. Who knows, maybe God wants to use you - which is why I thank this young couple. Even though it may not seem like it – this engagement can lead to the salvation of souls. Thank God for that. Continue and stay faithful to the Lord.