Month: April 2015

Coming joy

Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no-one will take from you. — John 16: 22

Message

The joy promised by Christ at His return is a comfort and a joyful hope.

In His farewell discourses Jesus made His disciples aware of His impending suffering and death, but not of His resurrection. The disciples were at first bewildered. They did not understand His references to these events. Before they could ask Him any more about it, Jesus gave them further explanations about what was soon to occur: His suffering and death would produce sadness and grief within them, however, this sadness would be transformed into joy after His resurrection.

In order to make these references clear, Jesus used an image (verse 21): a pregnant woman gives birth to her child amid fear and pain. However, the joy of holding her newly born baby in her arms makes her forget about all her sufferings.

Unfathomable joy

The first encounter of the Risen One in the circle of His disciples surpassed all previous experience: the disciples “still did not believe for joy, and marvelled” (Luke 24: 36–41). Jesus had to show them further loving care in order to dispel their grief and allow them to truly savour the joy He had promised them before His sacrificial death.

The admonition of Jesus in our Bible text, namely “and your heart will rejoice” also points to the fact that this joy was not merely an expression of human feeling. Rather, this was a matter of joy of faith over the victory gained by Christ over sin and death, as well as over the promise of eternal life founded upon it (John 11: 25–26).

Troubled joy

The reality of life shows us that we not only experience pleasant and joyful phases of life, but must also endure various burdensome events and situations, for example in the form of:

  • Unemployment and economic hardship. Such situations are often associated with anxieties and cares about the future.
  • Illnesses, which can also produce fear of suffering and death.
  • Grief and suffering, when a person dear to us passes away. Time does not always heal all wounds.

In such situations of life we also feel sadness. Trusting in God, however, we know that His protecting and strengthening hand is with us even in these circumstances (Psalm 139: 5). Ultimately He will intervene and usher in the great turning point at His return. This certainty of faith gives us quiet joy and comfort in our hearts, regardless of all other cares and needs.

Coming joy

The assurance of Jesus promises a kind of joy which no one will ever be able to take from us, in other words, an eternal joy. It will be fulfilled when:

  • Jesus Christ returns, the dead in Christ resurrect, and the firstlings are caught up to God (1 Thessalonians 4: 16–18). On that day there will be no more questions (John 16: 23).
  • God wipes away all tears after the Last Judgement. Then there will be no more death or suffering. The former things will then have passed away and the new creation will then be ready (Revelation 21: 1–5).

 

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for service held on Sunday, 26 April 2015 at Midrand Congregation

 

Advertisements

You can help those affected by xenophobic attacks

Due to the ongoing xenophobic attacks in South Africa, many of our brothers and sisters have been adversely affected.

The New Apostolic Church is therefore embarking on a collection drive across various congregations asking those who wish to donate to please bring the following items:

  • tins of non-perishable food
  • 1kg or 2kg packets of maize
  • Blankets
  • disposable nappies
  • toiletries
  • children, ladies and men’s clothes

All items can be brought to your church and as your rector will co-ordinate the drive.

You are also welcome to email your rector should you have any other ideas on how we can assist our community during this very traumatic time.

This initiative follows concerns raised last week by the District Apostle of the South East Africa region, Patrick Mkhwanazi, who deemed the xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa as very serious. He has subsequently cancelled services and all other activities in congregations in the severely affected areas which are:

  • Diepsloot
  • Johannesburg Central
  • Kromdraai
  • Olievenhoutbosch
  • Zandspruit

The DA does not want to create unnecessary alarm but has advised to assess the matter with caution and continuous monitoring, so that further action can be taken if necessary. “A further decision regarding this matter will be made by Sunday, 26 April, where an announcement will be made in the congregations affected whether there will be a service the following Wednesday or not.”

Church leaders have asked that we pray for those affected and for the xenophobic attacks to end.

The living hope granted by Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. — 1 Peter 1: 3

Message

The hope founded upon Christ’s resurrection is a certainty for us and gives us security. Many people consider the Christian faith to be a kind of accident and life insurance: God is to be our helper in sickness, mis fortune, and need—and at the Last Judgement; Christ is to pay out a “premium” for those who have lived an honour – able life and who have done nothing wrong.

That the resurrection of Christ has unlocked so much more for mankind is something that Apostle Paul already expressed in all clarity: “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15: 21) . Again and again, the Holy Spirit also reminds us that we must not limit our faith to the resolution of our daily problems.

The Christian faith is founded upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is thus—if it is taken seriously—nothing less than the beginning of a new existence: we have been begotten “again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1: 3). Human beings mired in sin live without hope and do not have any prospect of entering into fellowship with God. The baptised who believe in Christ and profess Him have access to this new life, which is guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Promise and certainty

Jesus Christ did not have to die and resurrect from the dead in order to make everything right in our earthly lives, but rather in order to grant us a living hope in eternal life. Such a hope contains both promise and certainty.

The promise upon which our living hope is founded is that of the future life that will become a reality for us with the return of Christ (1 John 3: 2).

The certainty that is also a component of our hope is founded upon the rebirth. Jesus Christ has resurrected and returned to the Father as the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1: 18). So too, those who have been elected and reborn by God’s mercy will resurrect to eternal life on His day. The rebirth out of water and the Spirit has made us heirs (Romans 8: 14–17). God Himself vouches for the redemption of this inheritance.

Clinging to hope

The author of the letter to the Hebrews likewise emphasises the hope founded in the resurrection of Christ: its dependability is rooted in God’s very nature. It is like a sure and steadfast anchor, which enters the inner sanctuary behind the veil in which Christ prepares a place for His bride (Hebrews 6: 18–20).

Thus the hope of the Christian not only has a future perspective, but also a reference to the present. This hope clings to us and we cling to it. Thereby we already today have an invisible but firm connection to that place where the Risen One will soon take us unto Himself!

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for Good Friday service held on Sunday, 19 April 2015 at Midrand Congregation

DA’s message related to xenophobic attacks in South Africa

The District Apostle of the South East Africa region, Patrick Mkhwanazi deems the xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa as very serious. He has subsequently cancelled services and all other activities in congregations in the severely affected areas which are:

  • Diepsloot
  • Johannesburg Central
  • Kromdraai
  • Olievenhoutbosch
  • Zandspruit

The District Apostle does not want to create unnecessary alarm but has advised to assess the matter with caution and continuous monitoring, so that further action can be taken if necessary. “A further decision regarding this matter will be made by Sunday, 26 April,  where an announcement will be made in the congregations affected whether there will be a service the following Wednesday or not.”

Church leaders have asked that we pray for those affected and for the xenophobic attacks to end.

IMG_2512

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. – Leviticus 19:34

 

Belief in Scripture and the word

Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. — John 2: 22

Message

We believe the testimony of Scripture and experience the potency of the word of the sermon.

There had never been anything like it! A human being who had brought the dead back to life had Himself risen from the dead. Even though there had been no eyewitnesses of this unique occurrence, all the gospels report about it in impressive fashion. What was dismissed as a lie at the time, and is today called into question by many, is an irrefutable truth and the foundation of the Christian faith. Unbelief and incomprehension can do nothing to negate or invalidate the resurrection.

Belief in the truth of Scripture

Scripture makes reference and attests to the resurrection of Jesus Christ in many passages (Luke 24: 46). The words, “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15: 3, 4) show that nothing has been able to prevent God’s plan of salvation from coming to pass. Both the Old and New Testament attest to this. Only through Scripture do we know that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. It is for this reason that belief in the truth of the biblical testimony is so important— not only for its testimony of the past, but also for its references to the fulfilment of the plan of salvation in the future (1 Corinthians 15) .

Belief in the word

A special dimension of God’s word became a reality with the birth of Jesus (John 1: 14). Not only did the Word of God come to dwell among mankind in the flesh, Jesus also unlocked a whole new understanding of Scripture for His listeners: “But I say to you” (Matthew 5: 22, 44). At the same time He thereby made it clear that He possessed greater authority than the Scriptures. He is the centre and Lord of Scripture. This knowledge is also imparted in the proclamation of the word today. It must be possible to measure everything that is said against the standard set by Jesus Christ. Thus the present word of preaching attests to the life of Jesus, His sacrifice, His resurrection, and His imminent return.

Our belief in this requires constant reinforcement through the word proclaimed to us. It is also the task of the Apostles today to bring the resurrection of Jesus to remembrance and keep the hope of our own resurrection alive (2 Timothy 2: 8–11).

Belief in Scripture and the word in our day

Belief in the truth of Scripture and the word of preaching has always been called into question. However, those who believe in it will also experience the potency of God’s word. The following events attest to this.

  • When the women arrived at Jesus’ grave they were perplexed because His body was missing. But the words of the angel comforted them and they returned to the disciples with confidence (Luke 24: 1–12). Bad news can at times unleash sheer dread within us. But when we believingly accept the word of God, peace and calm enter into our hearts once again.
  • The words of the women seemed like nothing more than idle tales to the disciples. Peter, however, gave credence to their words and set off to verify their testimony for himself at the empty grave (Luke 24: 11–12). Only faith will allow us to recognise the truth of the word proclaimed to us.
  • The hungry disciples believed, and cast their nets out on the right side of their boat (John 21: 5–6). Those who hunger for comfort—and believe—will experience the fulfilment of the word of God grasped in faith.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted service held on Sunday, 12 April 2015 at Midrand Congregation

Easter – Christ the Risen One: Proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus

Text: And with great power the Apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. — Acts 4: 33

Bible reading: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. — 1 Corinthians 15: 3–8

Bible reading:  But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.1 Corinthians 15:20–28

Message

The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our faith.

The gospels show that the disciples believed in the resurrection without really understanding its significance (John 20: 9). Only after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit did they become aware of all the implications of the resurrection. From that point onward, they preached the resurrection with all their power. Today as then, the Apostle ministry has the task of promoting and reinforcing belief in the resurrection of Jesus.

The resurrection of Jesus—the core element of the gospel

The Apostles believed in the words of Jesus—not because of the miracles He had performed, but because He had resurrected from the dead and shown Himself to them (John 2: 22).

The significance of the resurrection

The resurrection served as confirmation that Jesus had been sent by His Father. It

  • Shows that Jesus is the Lord before whom every knee will one day bow (Philippians 2: 10).
  • Demonstrates that death does not have the final word and that nothing can separate us from Christ.
  • Reinforces our belief that Jesus has the power to forgive sins.
  • Strengthens our faith that God is a God of love and of life.

For us, the resurrection means that we

  • Can look into the future with courage, bearing in mind the promise of the Lord in John 11: 25: “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”
  • Must endeavour to forgive our neighbour.
  • Must endeavour to treat our neighbour with love, like Jesus did.
  • Should keep the Sunday holy as the day of the resurrection (Catechism 5.3.4.4).

Our resurrection

Our faith is based on the testimony of Easter as proclaimed by the Apostles: “The Lord is risen indeed!” (Luke 24: 34). The preaching of the Apostles about the resurrection had a deep impact upon the early Christians (Acts 4: 32–35).

  • Material things lost their importance, which helped them to become one heart and one soul—an example we are to follow.
  • They shared everything. Let us help to bear the cross and the burdens of others in love.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the foundation for, and the promise of, our own resurrection (1 Corinthians 15: 20–23). We will receive a spiritual body comparable to the glorified body of Christ (Catechism 3.4.11.3), and enter into eternal fellowship with God.

Because we desire to resurrect with Christ, let us already today live in Him and for Him, proclaim His resurrection, and align our lives by the gospel.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for Easter Sunday service held on Sunday, 5 April 2015 at Midrand Congregation

Good Friday – The suffering Christ: Our lives testify of our childhood in God

Text: So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” — Mark 15: 39

Bible Reading: They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.

They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” — Mark 15: 22–39

Message

Our lives are to be a testimony of our childhood in God.

In Mark we read of a Roman centurion at the end of the account of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. This centurion had been assigned the task of carrying out the crucifixion, together with his soldiers. This man presumably had very little knowledge about the Jewish religion. Owing to Jesus’ conduct during the last hours of His life, the centurion came to the conclusion that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

Professing the Son of God

Professing Jesus Christ as God’s only begotten Son opens the way to salvation. After all, “whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him” (1 John 4: 15) , and he will be saved (Romans 10: 10).

Our example: Christ

We cannot compare ourselves to Jesus Christ, but we can take Him as our example: let us make our lives a living testimony of our childhood in God.

Accepting the will of God

The centurion was able to observe that Jesus subordinated His will to the will of the Father. The Lord Jesus did not protest the fact that He had to bring the sacrifice. Rather, He even endured mockery and scorn (Mark 15: 16–20), and suffered the torment of the crucifixion without complaint. Let us likewise submit to God’s will, even in times of difficulty.

Praying for others

The centurion heard that the Lord even prayed for His tormentors—including the centurion—even though they had nailed Him to the cross (Luke 23: 34) . May we always feel the longing to bring adoration, praise, petitions, and intercessions to God and to pray for our neighbour!

Remaining connected to God

The centurion was also able to observe how closely Jesus was connected with God, whom He addressed as “Father” (Luke 23: 46). Even in suffering and mortal agony, He did not cease to love God. The words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15: 34), bring to expression His poignant longing for God’s nearness. May misery and suffering never diminish our love for God! Let us always be closely connected with Him.

Caring for others

Even in dying, Jesus showed great concern for others: He addressed the spiritual need of the malefactor and made sure that His mother was taken care of. He assured the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in Paradise (Luke 23: 43). He committed His mother, who would otherwise have had no one to provide for her, to the charge of the beloved disciple (John 19: 26–27). Let us likewise be active in our love for our neighbour and continue to labour in love!

Certainty of the future

With the cry, “It is finished!” (John 19: 30), Jesus announced His certainty that everything had gone precisely in accordance with the plan of God. We likewise know our destination, namely eternal fellowship with the triune God!

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for Good Friday service held on Friday, 3 April 2015 at Midrand Congregation

April 2015: Resurrection

What does the resurrection of Jesus have to do with my life? This is a question that often occupies the minds of many Christians. Perhaps this is because people always associate resurrection with death: “But I am not dead,” they say, “I’m still alive! How does belief in the resurrection help me now in my daily life? I would much rather have God help me get a grip on my problems or maybe perform a miracle so that I can finally get ahead in my professional life this year!”

But there is a catch to this approach: if we always only limit the gospel to our earthly lives, we will be quickly disappointed. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ,” so writes Apostle Paul in one passage, “we are of all men the most pitiable.” Why? Because the Lord Jesus never promised that a faithful Christian would be spared all things unpleasant and lead a life of pure sunshine. That is not how the gospel works. The gospel is the message: “You have a hope that extends far beyond your life—because Christ is risen from the dead. He is the Victor over hell and death. With His resurrection He has prepared the way for your resurrection. His resurrection is the promise that the moment will also come for you and me when we will be free from all suffering and affliction, when we will be free from sin and death! The glorified body that you will be given at the return of Christ—with which you will be capable of seeing the glory of God and dwelling in the new creation—waits for you: eternal life in the fellowship of God. All of this has its foundation in the resurrection—and that will also give you strength today to see beyond all that which is earthly and transitory and look up to the eternal future that awaits.

* Food for thought from a divine service by the Chief Apostle