“Whatever you go through, there are plenty of blessings for you from our heavenly father and so you too must share the blessing.” This was the powerful message delivered by our Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider when he opened the divine service on 11 October 2015 at Dinwiddie Congregation in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The divine service was based on a Bible passage from Romans 9:33, “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Explaining the historical context of the text, the Chief Apostle said even though Jesus Christ was sent by the father, the Israeli community did not accept him because they felt he did not meet their expectations, claiming that he was not the saviour they were waiting for. However, those who had faith and believed that Jesus Christ was the son of God and in the message that he preached were saved.
This text serves as an awakening to many Christians today. The Chief Apostle said that the Holy Spirit tells us that we should be vigilant so that Jesus Christ does not become a stumbling block for us. “How can Jesus become a stumbling block,” he asked, and then provided a few examples of how this is possible.
One of the examples was how the Israelis were disappointed in Jesus because they wanted him to change their physical circumstances, deliver them from the Romans and if we expect Jesus to do something, if we ask for something and it is not granted, this is a way Jesus can then become a stumbling block for us. “Jesus offers us eternal life, he doesn’t want to deliver us from all our problems, but he wants to deliver us to the kingdom of God,” said the Chief Apostle, adding that as New Apostolic Christians we believe in Jesus Christ, and those who believe in him, through faith and by believing the message, will find salvation.
Is your priority here on earth?
Another stumbling stone is when people get irritated with Jesus as he said he is the only way to heaven, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). You must be born of the water and the Holy Spirit and partake of the body of Christ to enter the kingdom of God. The Chief Apostle said that many people of today think that the New Apostolic Church is not flexible enough, but he stood firm on the fact that Jesus Christ is the only way. “We cannot teach anything other than what Jesus wants us to teach … We need his word, his grace, and if we believe that he is the way, then we follow this way to be saved.”
“Love God with all you heart, soul and strength,” said the Chief Apostle, as he related the story of when Jesus was asked by a rich man what can he do to attain eternal life. And Jesus told him to follow the commandments and then leave all his possessions and follow Jesus but the man didn’t. “We must remember that Jesus is very demanding,” he said, adding that it is not easy to combine our earthly lives and be a faithful child of God. At some point in our life, God asks us to choose. “Do you want to be saved or is your priority here on earth?” Because we believe, we have a living faith that is not just a tradition, we follow Jesus Christ.”
The Chief Apostle spoke on the importance of having child-like faith and on Christians who believe they deserve more blessings than their neighbour, informing those who think that way, that such thinking it is not the will of God.
He also said that some get irritated because Jesus does not answer the questions as the Pharisees did when Jesus did not respond to their demands to prove that he is the son of God. The Chief Apostle said that he himself has a lot of questions that are not answered and that Jesus doesn’t explain why things happen the way they do. Additionally, some are irritated because they say that the preaching is all the same, “the Lord will come quickly” is constantly preached, but they want to know when? All that matters, said the Chief Apostle is that we believe in Jesus, his word, and his voice.
Many also question the New Apostolic Church, asking wouldn’t it be better to use the offering to help the poor, to which the Chief Apostle answered: “We are aware that we have to help our neighbours, but we have to also announce and proclaim the gospel. We first have to prepare the bride of Christ for the day the Lord returns and while we are doing that, then we look after our neighbours. “There can be many stumbling blocks but there can only be one way and that way is to follow Jesus Christ, even if you have to renounce something else,” reiterated the Chief Apostle.
Other contributions to the sermon and a new Apostle
District Apostle Michael Deppner for the Democratic Republic of the Congo West was the first call-up. He said that God used Jesus as a cornerstone to build his church; therefore we must not allow the teachings and message of Jesus to become a stumbling block for us. He said our faith is special and the ministers are the rocks who spread the word and over the altar we can receive grace and grow our soul salvation.
District Apostle Norberto Carlos Passuni from Argentina was also called upon to serve along. His words were translated from Spanish into English. In his serving, Apostle he reminded us to think of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made when he gave his life for us. There is major meaning in this, he said, adding that the sacrifice is the meaning of love because when “you give your life, you give your everything”.
The third call-up was District Apostle Rüdiger Krause from North Germany who said we have to have patience to recognise what our heavenly father wants and expects of us. He said if all humankind followed the 10 commandments and aligned it to their lives, there will be peace on earth.
Before serving Holy Communion, the Chief Apostle reminded us that we expect forgiveness but we don’t forgive others as easily. Additionally, to attain forgiveness, we have to be repentant. “Often we ask God to forgive us, but are we really sad about what we have done. That’s the important part, that I couldn’t keep the promise I made to the Lord. This sadness must become our main motivation when seeking forgiveness,” he said.
District Evangelist Sipho Mogane was ordained as an Apostle. The Chief Apostle said he was touched by his faith and willingness to serve the Lord. He told him that his task as an Apostle was to proclaim the message of God and prepare the congregation, but this must not be done in a threatening way, it must be a message of love and joy. “Be a joyful apostle,” said the Chief Apostle.
University of God
The Chief Apostle, accompanied by 18 District Apostles and eight District Apostle Helpers also attended a joyful choral concert at South Africa’s oldest and largest university, the University of South Africa. After the concert, the Chief Apostle linked the word of God to what we learn at a university and said when we enter the working world, things change and we learn new things; but the word of God always remains the same and it is important for us to remember that.