Following at a distance

Introduction Sibongiseni Khumalo
We greet the brethren in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank the Lord that He has brought us together to worship Him.

Ntokozo Nhlabathi
We thank the Lord that He has granted us this opportunity to meet. It is a privilege to wake up healthy and listen to Lord’s word on this day. We welcome everyone. If I could choose, I would not stand here but I trust the Lord to give me the strength I need. When some meet with mourning and difficulty, they receive strength at that time and they move on but there are others who experience pain after the mourning period is over. That is why this morning I need God’s grace.

54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Mark 14:54

Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter was close to the Lord and loved Him. When Peter made a mistake, he made restitution and apologised. But here, Peter followed Jesus at a distance. What happened? Peter was in a difficult situation; he was afraid and followed at a distance. Peter should have been close to the Lord Jesus, but he followed at a distance.

I do not know when Peter’s weakness began. The Lord Jesus called His disciples to Gethsemane with Him. Peter was singled out by the Lord to accompany Him. The Lord Jesus asked them to pray with Him and He went a distance to also pray. It was a difficult time for the Lord Jesus. The Lord chose those disciples at that time because He understood Peter’s love for Him. The sad thing is that when the Lord Jesus returned, they were asleep. He asked, ‘Could you not even wait an hour with Me?’ The Lord left them to continue praying and, on his return, the second time, they had fallen asleep again. I don’t know if it was then when Peter’s weakness began because after Jesus was arrested, Peter followed at a distance until he entered the courtyard of the high priest. For that entire journey Peter followed at a distance. He did not seem to be concerned. He came into the courtyard and warmed his hands. When the Lord Jesus was on trial and treated so badly, I don’t know whether Peter comforted himself by thinking, ‘Well, I am around.’ Peter warmed himself at the fire with Jesus’ enemies.

How many among us, friends, are following the Lord Jesus at a distance? Yes, they are there where Jesus is present, where Jesus is at work, but they follow at a distance. Why are they at a distance? They do not eat the food they should to be close to the Lord Jesus. Instead, they are at other homes eating other food. How do you recognise such people? They used to greet you in a particular way, but they don’t anymore. They eat somewhere else, so they greet you in different ways e.g. “The Lord Jesus is King!” instead of “Good morning, how are you?”. Where have you taken that from? Yesterday it was “Good day” but today “The Lord Jesus is King”? This troubles me. If someone asks how you are you, then you answer, ‘He rules here. He is king here.’ What does that mean when you say, ‘He rules’? It means that the Lord Jesus has taken over your life. You do nothing of your own anymore, but if you look at people who greet like this, the world has entered. What kind of Christian are you? You have changed.

Peter was a disciple of the Lord who was close to Him but what entered? I think he wanted the comfort of things around him and then he lost out. He followed the Lord from a distance. He had the courage to be with the enemies of the Lord Jesus. Why? He followed at a distance, and then found himself warming his hands in the courtyard with the enemies of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus was busy with His work, the enemy attacked Him but what did Peter do? Warmed himself with the enemies.

Where are you in relation to Jesus? Are you following Jesus at a distance? What has caused that to happen? What has entered? What has made you blunt so that you follow at a distance? There used to be nothing as precious to you as following in the footsteps of Jesus, but now you just follow any way you like. Possibly things you have heard, have entered your ears, and found a place in your heart and this has caused you to follow Jesus at a distance.

What caused Peter to follow Jesus at a distance? He lost that fervour. He was not on fire for the Lord. He fell asleep. His ears were closed. Now he found himself close to the enemies of the Lord Jesus. You were on fire for the Lord Jesus at one stage. You did not for one second want to miss being close to the Lord. Now you find yourself fast asleep and even dreaming in the service. You may have started finding fault. You have told everyone about it so much so that everyone can see that you have parted from Jesus and are following Him at a distance. It may not be evident to all yet, but in your heart you are working on this. It is separating you from the Lord Jesus because you find fault in your heart. That criticism will eat at you, and you will be parted from the Lord Jesus. Blessed is the person who will not just be satisfied to be in the vicinity of Jesus.

The Lord was being questioned and the man who could have been a witness and stood up for Him was warming himself with the enemies of Jesus. The enemies were not just satisfied that Peter was among them, they asked him. A young woman there asked him, ‘Are you not one of those who accompanied Jesus?’ Instead of it dawning on Peter and reminding him of what the Lord had said, he denied the Lord Jesus.

Child of God, just the other day you testified for the Lord Jesus, now you approach his enemies, and they ask why you are among them now. Girls, while you were here, you dressed decently but at the end of the month when you go to town you wear a dress like a tube and makeup. When asked where you are from, you say this is what I am. You say you work here, but you only have the form. You deny the Lord in what you do.

I was amused yesterday when we saw a few ladies who were dressed for the occasion. I said to my wife that some have put so much effort into creating who they are. Their makeup dripped onto their clothes and people’s attention was drawn to that, not to them. It was overdone and it began to fall off.

A child who is carried by his mother begins to pull off the mother’s artificial hair. As the ‘hair’ is pulled off, bald patches appear. The child sometimes pulls on the mother’s wig much to the mother’s unhappiness. What the Lord has created in wonderful and beautiful but through their actions, people say that God has made a mistake, I want to be different. People colour their lips red as if the Lord made a mistake in making them the colour He did. Some ladies cannot use a keyboard properly because of their long artificial nails. They say, ‘Sorry, I’m still getting used to it.’ We must suffer because of the one who is getting used to something artificial. I asked one of them the other day how she washes the dishes and the clothing with such long nails and she said that she makes a plan. She demonstrated how she did it between the palms of her hands. They are handicapped. They have not been created that way.

Many who have the name of ‘Christian’, say that the Lord does not look at the outside, but at the heart. It is better if people see you as you are not that you put on the form of being humble, whereas you are not like that.

The things which should be far away from you, are brought into your heart and this causes you to follow the Lord at a distance. You tell the Lord how you want your hair and physical appearance. You are warming yourself with the unbelievers. You want to be with them and that is where you feel at home. When you are with Christians you are so hard-headed because you want to be somewhere else. When you find fault, you go to the unbelievers and blurt it out, expressing what you feel because that is where you feel at home. They will understand you.

Peter woke up after he had done what the Lord had said he would do. Many wake up when it is too late and when they have gone the way they were warned not to go. After making the mistake, after the warning, it is then that they wake up. Peter’s eyes were opened after he had denied His Lord. Through the warning Jesus gave Peter, he had put a net around Him. But he only woke up when the rooster crowed. How many wake up after they have been warned, after ignoring the warning? How many sat here, listened to the preaching, were advised how to walk on the narrow way but they went their own way and now they do not know what to do? How many found fault about always being preached to about sin but now they are ruled by sin. The world mocks them. They desired a free life but look at what they have become before the whole world. The youth has gone against the truth in the churches where it is preached. They have left because they said they wanted freedom. Sin rules them and they are a mockery.

Where the Lord Jesus warned Peter that he would deny Him three times, I wonder what the state of his heart was like that prompted him to say, ‘I won’t, Lord. I will die where You die,’ yet he found himself warming hands with the enemy. When the Lord Jesus had been captured, the fire within Peter to be close to the Lord Jesus has died. He only follows at a distance. How many people have not denied Jesus with their voices but their actions have denied Him long ago. You can listen to the service, but does it work in your heart? You like a corpse here; the Word does nothing in you.

You do not drink alcohol even though you sit here but your heart is far away. The Lord can do nothing in your heart. You possibly serve the Lord through experience, for many years you have been here, but you follow at a distance.

When Peter said it, he had denied the Lord long before through his actions. Where they questioned Peter so much, he denied it. Where did he get the courage to warm himself by the fire? You have the courage to speak about another person. You strip them and expose everything you feel about them to others. You speak about you have heard from others, but you do not know anything.

The people who respected your Christian life, spit on it now because you have made yourself an enemy of the Gospel. Those who have become enemies find warmth in you. What has drawn you away? What is in you that has drawn them to you? They feel warm around you, they even hug you. They confide in you and bring all their complaints to you. You keep that in your heart. Will this be good for you? Forget it! You are a judge. You start rating people’s sermons. If you think Peter was terrible, you are much worse.

School children have the courage to tell others, Mrs So-and-So teaches well, but that one, I don’t understand her English. Her lessons are boring. You are worse than Peter. You find fault with your employer and infect your colleagues with your attitude. You are much worse than Peter. Those who have forsaken the Gospel, have nothing to do with the Lord Jesus but you find warmth with those people because you are so far away from the Lord.

Some who come here say they have not come to be Christians but to find a job. They ware warmed by the fires of God’s enemies. You cannot do that.

When a young girl speaks to a Christian like you about her lust, it is obvious that you are far from the Lord, you are infected. You do not have a boyfriend, but you are tickled by these stories, you want to hear them. You are terrible. Young man, you say that you do not have a girlfriend but the girls pour all their rubbish to you. You are worse than they are.

You feed yourself with the rot from your cell phone and then you walk around with your Bible. You have the wrong face on. You put on a form of godliness, yet you are rotten because of the filth you feed yourself with.

The mother has no respect for the father at home but in church on Sunday she praises the Lord. The mother does not know how to dress decently, she wears low dresses that show off her cleavage. She cannot respect her husband, the father of the home. All she says is, “Jesus is Lord!” Lord of what in your life?

This has bothered me. When you meet people, they respond with ‘Jesus is Lord.’ Jesus is Lord of what if you are living in the world. You take the filth of the world and bring it into your life, you do it secretly, you keep it inside but when you greet you say, ‘The Lord help me.’ Where does that come from? It is a good greeting to say, the Lord is King and you answer He rules – but then it must be how you live. If we say the Lord rules, then your life must testify to that. You cannot say that but when you get home you have such a temper. How can we say the Lord Jesus is King and He rules, but we cannot even respect our parents? If we reach the point where we can honour our parents and teachers and show the world how to live then we can greet that way.

Conclusion Jabulani Dube
It was Rev Stegen’s desire was that those who followed him would have more fire than he had. May we not be surprised if that prayer is answered.

Someone phoned me from one of the branches and said, ‘The Lord is King’. I asked him what that meant, and he said that he wanted to confess his sins, but he had already said, ‘The Lord is King’. Even on the mission people are beginning to greet this way. The truth is something wonderful, but the truth hurts. We have not been taught like this.

Peter followed at a distance and ended up warming himself with the priests. Then they noticed. For us that is when you contact those who have deserted the faith, the enemies of the faith.

The Lord Jesus explained to them that He would be betrayed. Peter reprimanded Him. There are people who walk with the Lord, but they oppose Him and try to correct Him. How did Jesus answer, ‘Behind Me, Satan!’ That response possibly hurt his feelings, but we read soon after that that Peter followed Jesus at a distance. You might sing in the choir or preach but are you still close to Jesus? Do you walk with Him? The Lord said that the person who wants to follow Him must take up his cross and follow. They were not confused into thinking it was a physical cross, the Lord said it clearly. Whatever comes our way, may we take up our cross and follow the Lord Jesus.

I do not know what happened when Rev Stegen arrived in heaven. Did the angels get up to welcome him and announce that the hero of heroes has arrived, the one who preached the gospel as he did? Did the King of kings get up and put that wonderful white robe on him – oh what a wonderful day? I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to see how he was received. I wonder whether Peter, John or Paul saw him. I had this image in my mind where they saw him coming and even Jesus Himself saying, ‘Well done.’ When he preached at his funeral about how he saw himself in heaven while he was ill, I said, ‘What a privilege to have heard him preach.’ I cried out to the Lord to help us.

Brethren, may we live for the Lord more than before. The preachers of the gospel here and in different places, may there be more unity than ever before. May the one who is troubled by sin cry to the Lord and forsake it so that on that day we might receive that crown from the Lord. If you feel cold and the spirits still rule you, go for prayer. Go to the Lord Jesus for help.

We went to Rev Stegen’s home these days. Someone said that when the disciples felt the Lord’s departure, they closed themselves into a room, but they knew He would return bringing strength and power. Have we not felt what it is like to have our leader depart from us? We feel the loss. We mourn, we cry but we have this: may the Gospel go forth, as he also desired. Are there any who still want to follow the Lord at a distance and meet with the enemies? Where the cell phone still rules you and you are in contact with those who have forsaken the Gospel. May we live for the Lord more than ever through every situation.

 

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