Introduction Albu van Eeden
We welcome everyone who is here or who has tuned in to listen today’s service. We trust that God will give each person what he needs through this service. I am reminded Rev Stegen’s words when he said that some people have hearts as hard as stone and through God’s word they need to receive a hammer to break the stone. If you experience God's word as a hammer today, do not be upset, do not rebel, it is because your heart is so hard that you need to get such a message. Do not be upset with the person who wields the hammer. Others have wounded hearts that need oil, so we trust that God will give to each one as he needs.
It is wonderful to meet this morning and expectantly wait on what God wants to tell us to enrich our lives so that we can please him where the Lord has placed us. It is wonderful to be with people who want to serve the Lord, who have a burning heart for his cause and who meet to praise the Lord for His working.
As we prepare for 11 December, it will be a wonderful day to give God praise and glory - a festival unto the Lord. Our God whom we serve is the true father. If you have lost your father or mother, He is the true father. If you lose Him or do not seek Him, you will be lost and be a miserable, unhappy person. You will want to enjoy the pleasures of this world that are temporary and give you no inheritance. Your reward will be erased. He assures us in His word that He will be the father to the fatherless (and the motherless). Take courage from the testimonies you have heard of people who have received numerous ‘parents’ through the gospel and through a life that is right with God.
We thank the Lord for this drenching rain. May you also be drenched by His word.
The text for today is taken from 1 Thessalonians 2:4
4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel even so we speak not as pleasing men but God who tests our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2: 4
But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel even so we speak, not as pleasing men; but God which trieth our hearts. (KJV)
The word to be ‘approved by God’ means that we have been tried, tested, examined and found worthy.
Paul testifies here. He speaks of what he is entrusted with and by what limits, aims and purposes he is entrusted with the gospel. Many people have testimonies and share their testimonies of what God has done in their lives, but it is a pity if they had a wonderful testimony but today they are lukewarm and build on the past experiences, not on what they experience now.
The German translation says we speak, not to please men. God is Lord over theology. When Jesus walked through the corn fields and His disciples ate the ripe ears of the wheat, the Pharisees (the learned men, the theologians) reprimanded them and said they were not allowed to walk and eat on the Sabbath. Jesus answered, “The Son of Man is even Lord of the Sabbath.” This is why the Lord is even Lord over theology. Theology can conflict with what the Lord says, so do not rely on your theology or you will be in conflict as the Lord conflicted with the Pharisees who knew the law and wanted to reprimand the Lord’s disciples. The Lord reprimanded them and said that He was Lord over their laws. The Lord very often said that if you do not repent and become as a child you cannot enter the kingdom. If your theology is your god then do not wonder if you are not part of God's working and His dealings in times of revival.
In Romans 2 29 we read:
29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
You can say that you have been circumcised according to the law. You are keeping the word of God as it is written, yet the word of God has not transformed your heart. Your criticism and evaluation of things is done according to the ‘paper’, the word, your intellect, (man's intellect) and you forget the secret of the spirit that quickens. Apply the word to your own heart and your inmost being; then it will be good seed that sprouts and bears much fruit.
Paul says, we have been approved by God. That is far above the wisdom of this world and what a man this Paul was! He could say, ‘I am approved by God’ and he spoke words that pierced the heart. These are not men who received position by election of earthly wise men. Do you see what the gospel requires? Men approved by God!
Children, this applies to us all. Christ, through His gospel, can reach our hearts and change us from a Saul to a Paul. Have you been changed? Your siblings know what your likes and dislikes are. You say, ‘We know our older sister. She's always grumpy on a Saturday mornings. She only wants her way. She is depressed and does not want to talk to anyone.’ Possibly your mother knows she cannot correct you because if she does so, the next two or three days you are grumpy. Your brother thinks he is the boss and when you speak to him, he growls. Watch out because the next time he will bite!
Paul says that we try and please God in whatever we do. He says that we were among you and did not even ask you for food. We worked with our hands and brought our food, so that we would not burden you. We were servants among you. Have we done wrong in not asking anything from you? He says, not only did we serve you with our words, but even with our own bodies. Do you see children, your own bodies - the strength you have, the abilities you have, the mouth, the eyes, the ears that you have - use them to serve your brothers, sisters and above all your parents. God will not overlook this. He even speaks of giving a glass of water to one who is thirsty. He says you will be rewarded for that.
The disciples asked the Lord, ‘Rabbi, what is the greatest command?’ Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength and love your neighbour as yourself - which is nearly on par with the first and greatest command. If you love your neighbour, your parents, the stranger, those who are in need, then you love God and show God the love that you have for Him. Our forerunners and the founder and director of this mission has showered us with love upon love until today. It is love that compels them to correct us. It is love that reaches out to us when we do wrong. The person who does not accept that love is not a true son. No wonder the Bible says then that you are a bastard.
May I inspire the ministers of the gospel through words of Matthew Henry:
The gospel which Paul preached was not his own, but the gospel of God. Ministers have a great favour shown them, and honour put upon them, and trust committed to them. They must not dare to corrupt the word of God: they must diligently make use of what is entrusted with them, so as God hath allowed and commanded, knowing they shall be called to an account.
Their design was to please God and not men. God is a god of Truth, and desires truth in the inward parts; and, if sincerity be wanting, all that we do cannot please God. The gospel of Christ is not accommodated to the vain fancies and lusts of men, to gratify the appetites and passions; but, on the contrary, it was designed for the mortifying of the corrupt affections, and delivering them from the power of fancy, that they might be brought under the power of faith.
What does the ‘power of fancy’ refer to here? The word fancy is not used much nowadays. Fancy has got a broad meaning: intended to impress - maybe your desire or whatever you imagine. A girl may say, “I fancy that boy” or the boy, “I fancy that girl.” You are under the power of fancy. You may fancy that house or hotel. The gospel delivers you from the power of fancy so that you can be brought under the power of faith. They acted as in the sight of Him who tries our hearts. Consider that God not only sees all that we do but knows our thoughts afar off and searches the heart.
Ministers, are you awake to these things? Can you measure your ministry against Paul's? If you desire to be a true follower of Christ and spread His gospel, here is the ‘recipe’. Paul started well and by God's grace he ended well. You may have started well; you have a good testimony, but will you end well or forsake the Saviour halfway?
Saul said, ‘I am the chief of sinners because I persecuted the church.’ It was his passion to persecute those who were part of the Way which Jesus had started and finished. He reached a turning point in his life. Have you come to your turning point or are you still a Saul? He testified before King Agrippa and said, “I heard a voice speaking to me. ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’” He asked, “Who are you?” “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Then Jesus said, “Rise and stand on your feet.” Saul saw this light which threw him to the ground. He could not continue. He was told, “For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness, both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. Now I send you to open their eyes in order to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” He started well.
Paul was different to Judas Iscariot. Judas started well. He was chosen by the Lord and was numbered among the twelve. But he conferred with chief priests and captains how he might betray Jesus to them. They were glad and agreed to give him money. The gospel is ‘tidings of great joy’ and now Judas told the Pharisees His ways. Some people are glad to have Jesus arrested, tried and tortured. Make sure that you are not numbered amongst those, because you can do it with your lips and the words that you say and you make people glad. You may only do it in your thoughts, but He sees all. He knows our thoughts afar off and searches the heart. Judas promised these who were gladdened by his way and they sought an opportunity to betray Jesus to them in the absence of the multitude. Judas secretly made a deal with them. Jesus is still alive today and He warns us about the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy. Have you got something hidden? Have you made a secret deal which you do not want the multitude to know about? What you have said in the dark will be heard in the light. Do you belong to this gospel of God which Paul advocated and lived, which is approved by God? Then you will have great joy and await the Lord's return.
Are you still a Saul? Have you perhaps started well like a Judas but somewhere along the way you have been influenced like Eve was who got into a conversation with the serpent that was sent by Satan himself. The serpent portrayed this to Eve: you will be like God; you will know things that other people do not know! Because of this she was expelled from Eden, from the paradise that God had prepared.
It is wonderful to live in this gospel of the Lord’s and Paul later said this is my gospel. Yes, it is God's gospel, but have you made it your own? You are part of it, you live it under God's approval and because He tests our hearts.
Yesterday I heard about a person who was involved in a serious accident. Suddenly she found herself in an unfamiliar place and noticed someone accompanying her, speaking to her and showing her things. As they went along the way, it suddenly seemed as if the way parted. The one way lead to a door of destruction. It was the place of everlasting remorse and regret. The other door, on the other path, led to life. When she entered that door, it was heavenly and she wished and pleaded to stay there for she knew that that place was for those who have been sanctified by the blood of Jesus. Then she experienced the guilt of her own sin. She cried, ‘Please forgive me, forgive me for my sin.’ The one accompanying her said, ‘There is no forgiveness here, there is only forgiveness on earth, but I will return you to earth and then you can seek forgiveness.’ It was as if she came down and saw her corpse lying the next to the smashed car. She later woke up in her body. She sought help and came to KwaSizabantu. As she entered the gates, she said that she felt something of what she felt when she entered that glorious door. Isn’t it wonderful that God reveals Himself in various ways which ways are not in conflict with each other, but harmonious.
Are you hard-hearted? After all these years your thinking is still as hard and as blunt as it was at the beginning. Do you see the love of God and the workers of the Lord in his vineyard begging you, praying for you - but you just let it fly over your head? Do you want to go to that place of eternal regret? Why is the cost too high for you? If your heart is so hard, go to someone and say, ‘My heart is hardened, pray for me.’ Allow the light to penetrate. What are you waiting for? You are missing out. Days pass, months pass, years pass. Do you want to live a fruitless life? May the suffering of Jesus not be in vain because the day of reckoning is coming. Think of the reward. Keep that in mind. Why not exert your strength? Love God, use your strength. You will not regret it. This is the kindness of the Lord. Even if you are sinking, cry out to Him and He will reach out to His hand to you.
Conclusion Albu van Eeden
We thank the Lord for every child of God who has remained faithful to their original calling. Thank you for your example. Allow me to close with Hebrews 13:7.
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.