On Sunday 18 August 2019, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider conducted a divine service in Brampton, Canada.
With all church activities currently suspended until further notice, the broadcast was made available on 13 May 2020 at 7 pm for all members to share in the blessing.
Opening Hymn: We love the place, O God (EH 28)
Bible word: “Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places.” (Psalm 135: 6)
My dear brothers and sisters, here and in all the connected congregations, we gather together to listen to the word of God this morning, and indeed God wants to address all of us. He does not want to address a group of believers, not even to address His people— He wants to talk to everyone, to each one as a person in his specific situation. He wants to talk to all of us personally and to address us as His child. He wants to address also those who maybe have fallen asleep in their faith. That happens sometimes, you know. Maybe young people—it might be seniors too—they just find: “Nothing is new in my life of faith! It’s always the same story, the same music, the same people.” It becomes boring. Nothing happens, nothing changes, and so step by step, one can fall asleep. Remember the story when Paul was in Troas, and he conducted—something that even happened in that time—a very long service. He preached until midnight. There was a young man sitting in a window, and he became tired because it was just too long. He fell asleep and he fell down from the third story into the street, and everyone believed he was dead. They went down, Paul too, and he simply lay there without moving. He was dead! But Paul came, embraced him, and said: “Don’t worry. He still has life in him.” Dear brothers and sisters, maybe one or the other brother and sister believes: “There is nothing. My faith is dead.” Maybe he is only there out of habit. It is our wish that today he may experience: “My godly life is still there! My soul is alive, and my soul is longing to have fellowship with Jesus! My soul has specific needs. My soul wants to listen to God’s word. My soul needs to celebrate Holy Communion. My soul needs to be with Jesus!” That is a nice experience: when someone who was asleep in his faith suddenly realises: “There is something alive in me! It is godly life, and my soul needs me to provide it with the food it needs.” It would be a wonderful experience if that happened today.
Maybe you were a little bit surprised when you heard the Bible text: “Whatever the Lord pleases He does”. One can have strange feelings when reading that. It is just a description of the omnipotence of God. We know that God is the Almighty One. There is no limit to His power. He can do everything, nothing is impossible for Him. God can do what He wants. There is absolutely no limit for Him. He is the Almighty One. He does what He wants. This also means that He is sovereign—He can do whatever He wants. Nobody can tell Him what to do. No one can force Him to do anything—no human being, no spirit, no circumstances! He does exactly what He has decided to do, and no one can force Him to do anything. No one can even influence Him! Even we cannot influence Him. It is not the case that we say, “Oh, if we do this and this and this, then God has to act and do this and this.” No, He does exactly what He wants, and no one can force Him to do anything or to act in a particular way—even if it is someone very holy: he cannot force God to do it. He does what He wants. Whatever the Lord pleases, He does. That means also that we cannot really understand Him, because His will and His thoughts are far beyond our understanding. We cannot say that we do not accept it. We may not understand it, and we may not agree with it, but the Lord does what He wants—and He wants us to just accept it! This is not a matter of discussion! He can do anything. He does what He wants. No one can influence Him! But that does not mean God works without rules, without reason, or just in an arbitrary manner. No! And that is the specific point: God is faithful. We can rely on Him. He is the truth. He is the righteous One. He is the loving One. He says what He does and He does what He says. So He is not just somebody who has a lot of power and does exactly what he wants, without anyone understanding His will. He does not just do what He feels like doing. No! We can rely on Him because He always says what He does and He always does what He says. So as human beings, we can rely on Him.
Now it is interesting to know what pleases God. What does He want? What is His will? It is quite easy: from the beginning, He created man to live in fellowship with Him, in His kingdom. The will of God is very easy to summarise. It is quite obvious that God wants man to live with Him, to have fellowship with Him in all eternity. That is why He has created man and that is His will—and it has always been His will. That is very easy to understand. God wants man to have fellowship with Him, and the fall into sin did not change anything about that. The will of God remains the same since the beginning, and no matter the behaviour of man, it does nothing to change the will of God. He wants us to have fellowship with Him. That is the will of God, and He does what He wants. He does whatever pleases Him. It is good to know that whatever God does, it is always done— whatever it is—for the same purpose, He wants all man to have fellowship with Him, He wants all man to be saved.
He has decided in His sovereign will that there is one way to be saved, there is one way to have communion, to have fellowship with God, and that is the way of faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said: “No one can come to God except through Me” (John 14: 6). There is no other name given to man by which we can be saved but Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 4: 12). That is the will of God, and man simply has to accept it. We cannot discuss it. We cannot try to explain to God: “But that is a little bit unfair and the others, you know, they are also good people. They do not believe in Jesus, but they are quite good.” We are not talking about ethical considerations here. We are talking about fellowship with God. And whether man agrees or not, there is only one way: Jesus Christ. There is one way, and one way only, to come to God: man must believe in Jesus Christ. I know today there are many who no longer agree with that, and they have decided there must be other ways to come to God. This is definitely not the case, and God doesn’t need us to understand. He simply says, “I do what pleases Me. I do what I want, and you just have to accept it! Do not discuss it. It is not a matter for discussion. It is the way it is.” There is only one way: Jesus Christ. One must believe in Him.
That call—when God calls man—that is another part of His will, namely to come to Jesus and to follow Him. And He calls whomever He wants—whenever He wants to call them. And once again, we cannot understand it. He does not give us an explanation. He has decided to establish several stages in His plan of salvation. You know, we are waiting for the return of the Lord. We are waiting to be part of the bride of Christ, to partake in the marriage of the Lamb, and then to enter as firstlings into the kingdom of God. Another stage will be the great tribulation. People will also be called to enter the kingdom of God during the great tribulation, and others will be called in the kingdom of peace.
We cannot understand why God calls this one now, and the other one later, and the other one even later. Do not ask what pleases Him. We cannot explain that. We just have to accept it in a humble manner: that is the decision of God. All we know is that He has called us now. And how do we know that? Because He has made it possible for us to be baptised with water and to be baptised with Spirit. That is our calling, brothers and sisters—because we have been given this possibility to be reborn out of water and Spirit. That is the calling. God has decided to choose this one, this one, and this one. “I have called them in the time of the church and they will be part of the church of Christ. And if they follow the Apostles, they will be prepared for the return of Christ and they will be able to enter the kingdom of God as firstlings.” That is our calling! And that is relevant for us. We do not understand why we have been elected, or why He does it that way and not some other way. It is the will of God. We just have to accept it. God has called us in this time—the time of the church—to be part of the bride of Christ. Whatever the Lord pleases, He does. But He does not act in an arbitrary manner. He is faithful. He says what He does and He does what He says.
He has created man with the freedom of choice. He did not want man to be forced to do anything. He wanted man to choose God freely, to decide for himself, “I want to answer God’s call”—and that is very essential. God is faithful. He has created this world. He has created man with the freedom of choice, and He will respect this freedom until the end. So He has called us, and He wants us to answer this call freely. He will never force us to follow God. He will never force us to be saved. He will never threaten us: “Be careful, if you do not do this and that, then it will be terrible for you!” No! How did He do it with Adam and Eve? They were even permitted to experience the love of God! They even lived with God, and they were given everything they needed. They were able to experience the love of God, and God told them what they were supposed to do, what He wanted them to do, and that was it! Finished! The rest was up to them. He did not force them, He did not want to influence them. He said, “OK, you can see that I love you. I have proven My love to you. You can feel it. And this is what I want you to do. And now you are free to decide.” God does exactly the same for us. He gives us the opportunity to experience His love, and He tells us what He wants us to do—and we have to decide: are we willing to say yes to God or to say no to Him? He does not force us. We are—and will remain—free until the end. God will not threaten us. He will not put pressure on us. We are free to do what we decide to do. On the other hand, God makes sure that we remain free to choose until the very end. We will never be forced to say yes to God. He also makes sure—and this is an important point—He also makes sure that we will never be forced to say no to God. Whatever the circumstances, God will always make sure that it is still possible for us to say yes to Him, to answer His call and to follow Him. That is something very important, brothers and sisters. Think about it. Paul said that nothing can separate us from the love of God. No power, no authority, no circumstances, nothing can separate us from the love of God (cf. Romans 8: 38). This means God makes sure that—no matter what happens— we have the freedom and the possibility to make the right decision and to say yes to God. Otherwise, if the trial were so difficult, if the afflictions were so great that we could not resist and we were forced to leave God and to become unfaithful, we would not be free.
That will not work. So God wants us to be free so He makes sure that in each and every situation we have the possibility to say yes to God and to follow Him. That is part of the faithfulness of God.
He respects the rules and makes sure that He is respected. So He has called us. He asks us, “Do you want to answer My call? Whatever happens—or not—it is up to you. You can decide.” He creates our salvation. We cannot work on our salvation on our own. We are—and will remain—sinners until the end. We cannot ensure that we will enter the kingdom of God. We need to be sanctified. We need to be purified. We need to be glorified, to make it simple. Only God can do this. We cannot say, “OK, now I am worthy! I am such a good guy and I am worthy to enter the kingdom of God!” That will never work. God creates our salvation, but we must respect His conditions. He will save those who remain faithful and will give them access to the kingdom of God. So He wants us to believe in Jesus Christ until the end, and—whatever happens—we need to follow this way of faith. That is not always pleasant for us. It is not always that comfortable. We often want to go another way. We want God to prove His love to us. We want God to show us this, and to explain that. And God says, “No, I have decided once and for all. You must simply believe. In other words, you have to trust Me. I give you My word, I will tell you what you have to do, and you have to trust Me. You have to trust My word. You have to trust My love.”
That is the only way to be purified, sanctified, and glorified. This is the way of faith, and even if what you see does not correspond, even if what you experience is totally different from, what you are told, you have to trust in God. Trust Him. Trust His word. Trust His love. If you trust Him, He will do it and He will save you. He will purify you. He will sanctify you. He will glorify you. And you can enter the kingdom of God. He creates our salvation, but He will only do this for those who trust Him until the end. He will fulfil His plan, and we are called to be part of the bride of Christ, to be prepared by the Apostles in the church of Christ to enter the kingdom of God as firstlings. He will do it! Nobody can hinder Him. He will make sure that everything works as He has decided. He does what pleases Him and He has promised that the evil one will never be able to overcome the church. Jesus promised that He would be with the Apostles until the end of their mission (cf. Matthew 28: 20). Remember the image in Revelation where the dragon tries to attack the woman but nobody can hinder the male Child from being born and being caught up to God (cf. Revelation 12: 1-5). So all these sayings of God mean God makes sure that what He has decided will happen. And for Him, it has already happened. In Revelation it always describes things—I hope this is the case in the English Bible too—in the past tense. What is presented is not that something is going to happen, it is presented as something that already took place because for God time does not exist. He does not make predictions! He does not prophesy anything! He describes a reality because He is above time. So for Him, it is clear. It is already done. Nobody can hinder it. Don’t worry, the evil one will not overcome the church! The Apostles will be able to fulfill their task until the end, and the bride of Christ will enter the kingdom of God.
He will do this, but that also means the time is limited and He will come when He decides to come. Again, small human beings cannot influence Him. He does not have to wait for us. He is not dependant on man. He can come and send His Son whenever He wants. He has not come yet, but that is not because He was not able to come—it is because He did not yet want to come. He does not need us to fulfil His plan of salvation. I said recently, Jesus could have come fifty years ago and take with Him all those who were prepared. He is not limited by a number or by a number of people. He can do great things with a few. He could have come fifty years ago. If He has not done so, it is only because He did not want to come before, because He loves us and He wanted to give us a chance to be prepared. He does what pleases Him, but that means that we have to be serious about it and be aware that the time of grace with God is limited. Sometimes I am told, “Yes, Chief Apostle, but if we are not part of the bride of Christ we can already be saved in the kingdom of peace”. Whatever the Lord pleases, He does. He has called me in this time now. I cannot consider it a given that He will call me again in the kingdom of peace! He does what He wants. I cannot say, “I was not ready, Father. Give me a second chance.” Maybe—and maybe not. Now, I am not trying to threaten people and say, “Be careful!” But we just have to be aware that we as human beings cannot tell God what He has to do. He has called us now, “Please come! Decide, make your decision right now.” I have no idea and I have no possibility to influence Him or to tell Him, “Please give me a second chance in the kingdom of peace”. I do not know: maybe He will do it, maybe He will not. He will not ask me what I want! That just means that we have to answer the call of God right now. That is the time of grace for us.
So shall I put it in a nutshell? God wants us to have fellowship with Him. He has decided to call us now, in this time. He makes sure that in every situation, whatever happens, we have the possibility to say yes or no. Nobody can say, “In this circumstance, in that situation, I could not remain faithful.” That is not true. God is faithful. He has always provided for you the possibility and the way to say yes to God. No circumstance can force me to leave God. It is up to me. So the whole thing, my salvation, depends on my faith and my willingness to follow God and to have fellowship with Him. And that is the point, brothers and sisters: my salvation depends on me and only on me. My salvation depends on my faith. That is why the disciples asked, “Oh Lord, strengthen my faith” (cf. Luke 17: 5). How can our faith be strengthened? Again, Jesus Himself decided. Paul said, “faith comes from hearing of God’s word” (cf. Romans 10: 17). One has to listen to the preaching of God’s word to have faith and to be strengthened in faith. Jesus Himself said He prayed for those who came, who believed, through the word of the Apostles (cf. John 17: 20). Chief Apostle Fehr used to say that very often, and I would like to underline it again. To be saved, we need to have a strong faith in every situation, and the only way to strengthen this faith is to listen to the preaching of the gospel through the Apostles. This is vital when it comes to us and our preparation for the return of the Lord. When I say “listen to”, it is not just a matter of listening and saying, “Ah yes, he said this and this.” We have to eat it! We have to digest it! We have to work with it. That is our problem today. In our society we are used to having fast food—I assume in Canada it is the same as in France and Europe—we have fast food, ready to eat. Everything is prepared. Everything is ready. That is not the case with the word of God. If you want to get the benefit of the word of God, you have to digest it, you have to work with it, and you have to think about it. You have to ask yourself, “What does it mean for me? What does God want me to do?” The more you digest, the more you work with the preached word of God, the stronger your faith will be. Again, this is not an invention of the New Apostolic Apostles in order to make sure the churches are full. It is the will of God. He does what He pleases. He makes the decision—and He has decided that this is the way—the only way—to strengthen faith. Listen to God’s word, eat His word, and digest it. Work with it. That is why it is so important that we listen to God’s word and we work with it. Besides, if this is also our will, we have to be willing to say yes to the Lord in each and every situation. Not because we want to escape the danger, not because we want to escape some illness, sickness, or difficulties. We want to be with God because we love Him because we have experienced His love. We are here to strengthen our will to follow God. We have to strengthen our love for God. The only way is for us to grow up in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. I used to say—and I really mean it—the more you know Jesus, the more you love Him, the greater your will to follow Him and to be with Him. Let us be connected to Jesus. And when we read the Bible, it was nice to know what He has done—but that means something for today! What would Jesus do today? What does it mean for our situation today, what has He done for me, what does He do for me, and what will He do for me? The more we are connected to Jesus, the more we know Him, the more we will love Him and the stronger our will to follow Him will be. That gives us the strength to say yes to God in each and every situation. God does what He wills. We have to accept His will—but do not forget: His will is that He wants you to be saved! He has called you. He tells you what He wants you to do. You have to decide—and if we have enough faith and enough love, it will be possible for us to say yes to God until the end, and He will glorify us. Amen.
Thoughts from Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider