Month: January 2016

testimony

Proving ourselves in trials

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. — 1 Peter 4: 12–13

Message

In Christ we can even rejoice and remain faithful in times of trial.

We are filled with consternation whenever we are confronted with illness, misfortune, or death. This is not unusual. After all, we are completely normal human beings who are sad and despondent when they suffer. Our Bible text does not mean that we should be happy because misfortune befalls us, but it does show us that we can rejoice in Christ even in suffering. We feel joy in Christ whenever we experience the nearness and love of Jesus.

Trials

Joy in Christ comes through the activity of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit teaches us to look beyond the suffering that affects us, such that we recognize it as a trial. Just as He did with Jesus, however, the Devil tries to take advantage of the situation in order to cause us to doubt in God and thereby lead us away from Him.

Joy in Christ

To rejoice in Christ we must know that we are the property of Christ in the first place. The frequency and intensity of our trials makes us aware of the treasure we possess. If we were not so rich, the thief would not expend so much energy and effort …

We can rejoice that we are loved by Christ. When Saul persecuted the early Christians in order to force them to deny Christ, the Lord showed His solidarity with them (Acts 9:4). The moment came when He intervened and put an end to Saul’s actions.

Jesus sympathizes with us

The Lord sympathizes with our suffering and sees to it that we are not tempted beyond our capacity (1 Corinthians 10: 13). Just as He did with Deacon Stephen, He shows His love to us even in the most difficult moments (Acts 7: 56).

Jesus makes it possible for us to overcome trials and temptations and to experience the joy of the overcomer. Thanks to His help we can remain faithful in following despite all tribulations, fears, and perils (Romans 8: 35, 37).

Hope for redemption

Hope for redemption is a source of joy. In Asia Minor Paul was confronted with dramatic circumstances that caused him to lose all hope, but God delivered him. Paul came to the conclusion that he could not trust in himself, but only “in God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8–10).

The future of the Christian faith in general and our Church in particular, seems in jeopardy at times. Some are already predicting the worst. It is quite legitimate for us to ask ourselves what measures we should take in order to deal with this situation; however, we place our trust in God. He who raises the dead will also deliver us!

And finally we can already today rejoice in a wonderful and glorious hope: soon the Lord will “transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body” (1 Peter 1: 8–9; Philippians 3: 21).

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday, 24 January 2016, at Midrand Congregation.

Perfect in love

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. — Matthew 5: 48

Message

Perfection is founded on living up to the expectations of God.

The perfection desired by Jesus is not based on standards set by human beings. The perfection of God transcends human understanding. For example, it is based on the fact that God does not have to improve Himself and that with Him there is no difference whatsoever between His will and His actions (Catechism 3.1.8).

The perfection of God

In Jesus Christ we can experience the perfection of the Father: those who see Jesus see the Father (John 12: 45). In Jesus we experience

  • Perfect knowledge. He made a clear distinction between good and evil, and acted accordingly.
  • The perfect servant, who fulfilled His commission to the end.
  • Perfect love. There is no greater love than that which He showed (John 15: 13).
  • Perfect oneness. He was perfectly one with His Father.

Future perfection

In Jesus Christ we have the promise of attaining perfection in His kingdom. He will make it possible for those who accept His word and His grace, and who receive the sacraments, to be like Him at His return (1 John 3: 2).

Perfection today

At the same time, Jesus Christ calls upon us to be perfect already today. He does not require us to be without sin, because no human being can achieve this. To be perfect in the present is to live up to God’s expectations of us perfectly. Today God expects us

  • To have the firm resolve to work diligently. Paul had not yet achieved perfection in Christ, but was firmly resolved to attain it, and battled for it to the end (Philippians 3: 12).
  • To distinguish perfectly between good and evil. Let us not be like babes when it comes to our ability to discern (Hebrews 5: 12–14). A child might avoid doing something bad for fear of punishment. Those who have attained spiritual maturity will align their lives by the gospel because they are convinced of its perfection.
  • To be perfect servants. In order to be perfect, the rich young man would have had to leave his possessions and follow The Lord called upon him to no longer be content with keeping the commandments in the interests of material blessing, but rather follow and serve Him out of love.
  • To be perfectly one. Jesus wants those who have come to believe in Him through the word of the Apostles to be perfectly one (John 17: 20–22). God does not expect all of His children to have the same opinion and lifestyle. He merely wants them all to be one in Christ in that they all see the same example in Him and have the same priorities (1 Corinthians 1: 10). Oneness in Christ is a source of perfect joy (Philippians 2: 2).

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday 17 January 2016 at Midrand Congregation.

rebirth

Rebirth also constitutes a task for us

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practises righteousness is born of Him. — 1 John 2: 29

Message

The rebirth obligates us to conduct our lives in accordance with the example of Jesus Christ.

From its start to its very last book, Scripture attests that the eternal God is a righteous God. In the oldest writings we read: “His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice” (Deuteronomy 32: 4). And in the very last book of the Bible it says: “Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgements” (Revelation 16: 7).

Jesus Christ is God, the Son, who became human and walked this earth as the Righteous One. He was the only human being to lead a life without transgressing any of the commandments—indeed, He lived a life without any sin, and was thus able to say of Himself that He had come to fulfil the law (Matthew 5: 17). In the rebirth out of water and the Spirit, we have received the nature of God—and thereby the commission to profess Jesus, the Righteous One, in word and deed.

To be born of Jesus Christ is therefore not only a sacramental act, but rather also has very specific implications for the way we lead our lives. Receiving the sacraments and living in accordance with the gospel belong together.

Our endeavour to fulfil the standards set by the gospel is therefore also always a testimony that we have been born of Him.

A life in line with the example of the Righteous One

Now what does a life that focuses on the Righteous One actually look like? It is demonstrated, for example, in

  • Our love for God, our love for our neighbour, and our love for one another. This love has been poured out in our hearts (Romans 5: 5) and is to become active.
  • Unbiased care and willingness to help—even when it comes to the sinner or the guilty party.
  • Unreserved trust in God’s omnipotence and omniscience, especially in situations that seem hopeless.
  • Willingness to sacrifice, which at times quite consciously chooses to take the less comfortable route.
  • The striving to engage one’s gifts and strengths to help others, and not to hurt others.
  • A clear view of the divine will, which enables us to make decisions as desired by God even in times of trial.
  • The overarching life goal of entering into eternal fellowship with God—in line with the counsel of Jesus: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6: 33).

Many of these things we will not manage to achieve one hundred per cent or in their full scope until the day of Christ’s return—but ultimately our endeavours will be blessed by the Lord.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday 10 January 2016 at Midrand Congregation.

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Victory with Christ

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! — 1 Corinthians 15: 57

Message

With Christ we are victors!

Through His sacrifice and resurrection, the Lord has conquered sin and death. Belief in Jesus Christ allows the sinner to be delivered from sin and to resurrect from the dead. Through His word and the sacraments, God today gives us the strength to conquer that which separates us from Him. But it is up to us to fight against evil. Let us make 2016 a year of victories with Christ.

Victory over evil

Let us make it our objective to gain victories over evil, for example by

  • Remaining faithful to the Lord despite afflictions (1 John 5: 5).
  • Adhering to the law of God even if we are the only ones who do so—simply out of love for Jesus.
  • Doing good even when we ourselves have been victims of evil (Romans 12: 21).

Victory over fear

This year we will once again have to give thought to the future. Let us see to it, however, that we do not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by worry, even when times are difficult. Those who trust in God will not have to fear tomorrow (Matthew 6: 34).

The victory of Jesus consisted of overcoming evil, not of eradicating it. Evil is still rampant, but it cannot prevent Christ from saving those who trust in Him. Right up until the return of the Lord, the church will still have to experience fiery trials (1 Peter 4: 12). Even if these tribulations undeniably cause us to suffer, let us not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed. We believe in the victory of Christ and continue to trust in Him. “The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20).

When making important decisions, some are paralysed by fear of commitment. But why should we be afraid to get married, raise children, or exercise a ministry? Christ is there in order to guide and help us! With Him we can succeed in our matrimony and in raising our children. With Him we can successfully balance the exercise of a ministry with a happy family life and personal fulfilment.

Victory over ourselves

The year 2016 will also provide us with many opportunities to gain victories over ourselves. Here we must still overcome

  • Our pride in securing the help of God, as the example of Naaman shows (2 Kings 5:11–14).
  • Our prejudices in accepting the differences of our neighbour. Let us remember the account of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10:9–35).
  • Our desire to say what we are thinking, in order to preserve the peace.

Many believers will once again this year give up a portion of their income in order to bring their offering to God. What a great victory of the love of Christ!

Victory with Christ

Christ will only give the victory to those who fight in accordance with the rules that He has established. These rules are:

  • We must believe (often without seeing) in the truth of Christ, in His love for us and our neighbour, and in His victory.
  • Jesus will only bless our efforts when they are motivated by love.
  • Perseverance. Without this there will be no victory (Romans 5: 4).
  • Unity. We need one another in order to overcome (1 Thessalonians 5: 11), and only those who attain unity in Christ can ever be crowned (Ephesians 4: 13).

Thanks be to God, who always allows us to triumph in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 2: 14)!

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the New Year’s divine service held on 03 January 2016 at Midrand Congregation.

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Devotions: January

In the first Sunday service of the new year our Chief Apostle sets a powerful accent: “Victory with Christ!” This statement allows us to look into the future with courage as Jesus Christ has not only gained the victory over hell and death, but also allows us to share in His victory. His comforting words attest to this: “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14: 19). He is the one who always helps us to gain new victories for the work that He has begun in us. He accompanies us through all the hardships we experience, and gives us the power to conquer the evil within us and attain eternal life in fellowship with the Lord: let us gain the victory with Christ!

The theme series of the month of January, namely “Christ in us”, goes on to explain what we have received through Jesus Christ, and the victories He enables us to achieve. The first element necessary for this is the rebirth out of water and the Spirit. This will be the topic on the second Sunday of the month. Through the rebirth out of water and the Spirit, our relationship with God is strengthened and we are promised perfect fellowship with the triune God. We can now grow into the nature of Jesus Christ. To always live up to this nature and put it into practice in word and deed is an expression of the victory we have succeeded in attaining over ourselves, over our old nature. Thus the rebirth also always constitutes a task for us, namely to live in accordance with the example of the Righteous One.

We can also gain victories in perfecting our love. This will be the focus of the third Sunday service. Consistent actions in accordance with the will of God, a life in accordance with the gospel, and the honest longing to follow and strive for oneness in the mind of Christ are signs of perfect love for the Lord. However, they also remain challenges for us in which we are to gain victories again and again.

These individual victories help us to remain faithful to God, and also assure us of His faithfulness—and indeed His help. The divine service on the fourth Sunday describes the aspects of our faithfulness to the Lord and the joys associated with it. We see that committing ourselves to God and rising to the tasks He has assigned us allows us to be joyful despite all the upheavals of life.

Ultimately, “Christ in us” also effects a most outstanding victory: tolerance of our neighbour. On the fifth Sunday of the month, the divine service will provide us with instructions as to how we can remain benevolently inclined toward our neighbour despite all differences and foreignness. Here we are often tempted by the evil one to exhibit rejection, hatred, and prejudice. Let us use the example set by Jesus to counter this.

The Chief Apostle’s message for 2016: Victory with Christ

Laying aside fears, fighting evil, and overcoming our own weaknesses—these are the tasks facing New Apostolic Christians in the coming year. In his New Year’s message, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider calls on everyone to make 2016 a year of victory with Christ. And he shows how it can be achieved in everyday life.

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* Originally published on nac.today

Bible

January 2016: An answer to all questions?

 

In many Christian circles, the prevailing view is that the Bible contains answers to all questions, and that one can take precise instructions for one’s actions from its pages for any conceivable situation of life. Anyone who uses that argument might just as easily use the Bible to defend the death penalty, for example. The problem here is that one can take a single passage out of the Bible, elevate it to the level of a dogma, and use it to build an entire doctrinal construct. In the past we used to do the same thing at times. Today, however, we have a different understanding of Holy Scripture: it must be seen as a whole. Many things from the Old Testament can only be properly understood when they are read in the light of the New Testament and the teaching of Jesus. And in so doing, it also becomes quite clear that not every biblical statement carries the same weight. For example, it is necessary to make a distinction between statements that are necessary and decisive for salvation and those that are bound to a particular time and applicable only to a specific historical situation, for people living at that time.

We are not one of those groups who believe that God has something to say in the Bible about every last situation, or that everything contained in the Bible therefore has the same validity, priority, or significance. But on the other hand, it is also clear that the Bible is not just a book that belongs in an antiquarian bookstore either. Rather, it is just as current today as it was yesterday. It is a book for our time, even for life as a Christian in the twenty-first century. It is worthwhile to read from it!

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

The worship of God

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. — Psalm 95: 6–7

Message

We conclude the year with worship.

We worship God …

As we close the year we gather once again in order to worship God together.

… By professing Him

To worship God is to acknowledge Him as the omniscient and omnipotent Saviour. We believe that

  • God knows everything that has been said and done day in and day out over the past year.
  • Nothing has happened without His consent.
  • God alone desires the salvation of mankind.

We do not always understand the actions of God. The dramatic events that have defined the year raise many questions for which we do not have any answers. Nevertheless, we have the certainty that God could have prevented them had they jeopardized His plan of salvation.

… By humbling ourselves

We incline ourselves before God, the Holy One. Filled with reverence, let us silence our human thoughts and reservations. After all, what right do we poor sinners have to remonstrate God for the things that have happened this year?

… By giving thanks to Him

Worshipping God means we profess that we are in His debt, but it also means that we praise Him for His many favours.

The Lord has provided for us like a shepherd. He has taken care of our needs and protected us. He has led us with a sure hand upon the path of salvation.

At the end of the year, let us give special thanks to the Lord for all the joy that He has given us, namely

  • The joy over the victories He has helped us win over the evil one.
  • The joy we have experienced in fellowship with our brothers and sisters.
  • The joy that He has blessed our involvement in His work.
  • The joy that He has granted us in our daily lives.

… By giving thanks to our neighbour

This year too, the Lord has often made use of imperfect individuals in order to do us good. If He has been able to bless us, it is only because other believers were prepared to serve the Lord, get involved in the congregation, and bring their offerings. Let us be humble enough to acknowledge this. The Lord said, “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25: 40) These words also refer to the debt of thanks we owe those who have, in one way or another, contributed to our blessing.

… By expressing our trust

Finally, worshipping God also involves expressing our trust in Him. When we think about the majesty of God and thank Him for His deeds, this gives us confidence for the future. That which God has done to this point, He will also continue to do: He will bear us, and carry us, and deliver us (Isaiah 46: 4).

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on New Year’s Eve, 31 December 2015 at Midrand Congregation.

Accepting salvation

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. — Philippians 2: 5–7

Message

God comes to us in Jesus Christ in order to bring us truth, peace, and eternal life. Let us go to meet Him!

This passage from the letter to the Philippians has many facets, but it is quite easy to understand: God became a Man among other men in order to bring them salvation. By rejoicing over the events of Christmas we also signify that we are grateful for them.

God became man

The reason for which God became Man is as follows: God created human beings so that they would be able to live in fellowship with Him. However, human beings distanced themselves from God. Two examples will serve to illustrate this.

  • Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and believed that they could recognize the truth on their own. The serpent, however, had lied to them. Without God, human beings cannot access the truth!
  • The inhabitants of Babel combined their forces in order to build a city with a high tower (Genesis11). They were arrogant and relied upon their knowledge and skill alone. They wanted to create something that would endure for all time. However, God showed them that He alone is capable of securing the future.

God’s intention to save

God never gave up on His intent to save man. Even when mankind distanced themselves from Him, He went after them.

Our Bible text states that God, the Son, was willing to become human. He did not insist on remaining in the divine sphere. God became Man in order to

  • Teach mankind the truth and show them that God is love.
  • Show mankind how to live together in harmony, namely how to love one another and become one in Christ.

Our response to God’s act of salvation

In order to be saved, human beings must come to God in humbleness and

  • Renounce their own notions of truth and accept that God alone is truth.
  • Be prepared to forgive their neighbour, to understand him, and to love him.
  • Respect the prerequisites established by Jesus Christ in order to attain eternal life: we must be reborn out of water and the Spirit.

Since God knows that we will never be able to attain the perfection desired by Him, He promised to send His Son again in order to meet us. When the Lord returns, He will cover our imperfections by grace and make it possible for us to

  • Recognize the whole truth and see God as He is.
  • Live in eternal peace.
  • Be like Him.

* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for divine service held on Sunday, 27 December 2015 at Midrand Congregation.