On Sunday 26 January 2020, District Apostle J Kriel conducted a divine service for ministers and wives in Nyamazane congregation. The divine service was audio-visually transmitted to various congregations around the NAC-SA region.
With all church activities currently suspended until further notice, an excerpt of the broadcast was made available on 27 May 2020 at 7 pm for all members to share in the blessing.
Bible word: “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace”. (2 Timothy 1:9(a).)
Today, we have a word taken out of Timothy – Paul writes to Timothy. When some commentators speak about this book, they say it’s like a death song of Paul because from here he goes to Rome and he does not return. Here Paul writes to his friend, and in the first verse, he reminds us that he was chosen as a servant by Jesus Christ – not by the will of man or his own sending. And that is what we have in common – we have been called by our Lord Jesus Christ – let that be embedded in our souls. The fact that we were ordained is not the work of a man nor by our own doing; we didn’t call ourselves and say we want to be ministers and, therefore, we become one. No. We were called by God. We were blessed by God. And in this letter, Paul emphasises that just in case we forgot – we are what we are because God called us; God needs us, God needs me and we want to make a contribution towards His work as we heard in the Bible word. Not because of His works, but because of the calling of God. The calling of God does not make us better than anyone else, but it gives us a spiritual task. Just as Paul emphasised, I too want to emphasise that God called us and we are here. The fact that we are ministers has nothing to do with us – it has everything to do with God and His work. Remember, we are servants, not because we are better than anyone else, and that should keep us humble because we are all sinners. We all fail. We all battle to overcome. But with this, our God gives us a special purpose – and Paul says that here too.
And then he writes to Timothy, a young servant with so much zeal, and he reminds us ‘I remember, the last time they met, he left him in tears.’ We read in the book of Acts when they parted, Timothy was crying. Not just because it was sad to say goodbye, but cried under the burden of that which he had to do; under the burden of the calling. Our Bible word says that we have been called to a holy calling. And sometimes, that holy calling makes us cry – sometimes physically so. Sometimes, in the depths of our soul when one cannot see the ways of God; and we’re on our knees and we say ‘Lord, help!’ And here Paul saw the tears of Timothy, just as the Lord sees our tears and our sadness. When we want to do so much and we cannot; and when we have done so much and it’s not appreciated. When we have prayed so much and my brother or sister still does not see the ways of God. Paul wrote to Timothy and said it’s important to get together and say ‘don’t give up’; ‘we didn’t achieve what we wanted to’, ‘we tried our best.’ Remember, God knows. Today, He calls us together and says ‘everything didn’t go the way you wanted it to go, but I am still with you and I will give to you what is needed.’
Our Bible word ‘who has saved us and called us with a holy calling’. We have heard that it’s not according to our works, but according to His will. We want to be reminded of this calling. It’s not just any calling – we have been called to a holy calling. If you think of Jesus and His plan, what did He do? He came to establish His church upon the earth and gave certain instructions. He said: “Accept that if you are not reborn out of water and the Holy Spirit you cannot enter the kingdom.” He said when He celebrated Holy Communion with His Apostles: “You do this until I come again.” He also said to them: “Prepare the bride of Christ for My return.” And that is our calling. We are called to proclaim the gospel. We are called to make disciples for Jesus by dispensing the sacraments. We are called to prepare the bride of Christ. And this authority, this commission, this calling, was embedded in the Apostle whom the Lord chose, and we, by implication, all servants are part of the Apostle ministry. And that is our holy calling. When you baptise, let it not just be a ritual – it’s an instruction from Jesus. Do it as if Jesus is there. When as servants, we bestow blessings upon God’s people; let us do it as if Jesus was doing it. Because we have been called to this holy calling and it humbles us under the great task that God has given us. And we never want to forget the holiness of the calling, and we want to fulfil it. When our God gives this calling He gives us the strength to do what we must do, and for that reason, we are ordained.
When we were ordained we kneeled and received certain things. Our Catechism teaches us that when we were ordained we receive authority. We receive authority in the sense that we have the authority to proclaim the gospel. We have the authority to make disciples, to baptise, to seal – to administer the sacraments – that authority we receive. We receive authority to prepare the bride of Christ. We don’t want to confuse this authority with anything else. With our ordination, the authority becomes part of our holy calling – we want to understand that as something that is able to assist in our task. We also receive blessing, and we receive this so that everything according to the will of God will be blessed. It is important to spend time, effort and prayer to find out what the will of God is – what does He want me to do? When we find that, the effect of our ordination will come into being so that when we are blessed, that which we do will be blessed. We also receive sanctification. We are all sinners. We all fail. We all come short. And in one way, that keeps us humble. We are not perfect. Our knowledge is limited – we only know a small portion. But we do fail. And that we know. But with our ordination, God provides us with sanctification. And when we serve Holy Communion, indeed it becomes the body and blood of Christ – irrespective of our sin, shortcomings and failings. We receive that sanctification to fulfil the blessings when it is bestowed upon God’s people. It becomes valid because God granted us the sanctification for that purpose. We don’t want to be unclear when it comes to what our purpose is and why God has called us and what the blessing is that we received. We received it to fulfil God’s will. We received it so that His work can be completed and the bride of Christ can be prepared for the return of Jesus.
When we understand what our holy calling is, then it’s maybe prudent to understand and look for a moment at what we have not been called for – what this calling does not cover. You have not been called to give medical advice to God’s people – it’s not our job – you have not been called to be a doctor. Let us not get our function confused –that is not the holy calling. We have not been called to give legal advice. You have not been called for that. Direct God’s people to where they must go for advice. We have not been called to give financial advice either. Don’t use the ministry for that purpose – we have not been called for that. When you are ordained, you don’t suddenly receive extra knowledge – even of the Bible and of the church – it is up to you to equip yourself with the knowledge. There is the Catechism, Nactv, and the Bible – go and find the knowledge. The theme in the soul care diary for this year is: thirst for knowledge. If we get to know God better, we will understand God better. We want to ensure that we increase our knowledge because we didn’t get that with our ordination – we must go and find it. And we must read and learn from each other.
We know what we have been called for and now we are also reminded what we have not been called for. We have not been called to adapt the gospel of Christ to suit mankind. We are here to proclaim the gospel – not to change it. Let us return to our core value: preaching the gospel, making disciples and preparing the bride of Christ. We get so much advice from many different people, and everyone thinks their way is the way to go. Do you remember Peter? When the Lord told him what was going to happen, Peter said no, that cannot be. And when they came to arrest Jesus, Peter took out his sword and cut off the ear of the soldier. That wasn’t the way of God. Peter might have thought that would work, but that was not God’s will. Our holy calling is to fulfil God’s will. Family life is also important. Where we need to make up, make up today. We often know so little. Dear brothers and sisters, we are part of a blessed task of serving God – let us do this sincerely, but at the expense of our families.
As the work grows and develops, we want to be sure that what we have preached does not become more important than the revelations of Christ today. We’ve often gone to door knock and testify and say to people that we bring you the word of God, and you must do something today because ‘today if you hear my voice, harden not your heart.’ Remember that? We all said that. But it applies more to us than to anyone else – don’t harden your heart – accept it, embrace it. Because that’s what the Lord says to us today. Remember, we have limited knowledge. But take the little bit that we have and let it become part of our life that we hear God’s word today. And we tend to speak of what we have done; we don’t have to remember that because God knows what we have done. Let us rather speak of what the Lord has done for us and you will never grow tired of talking. Speak what the Lord has done. And if we speak of what the Lord has done, we will never grow out of things to speak about because the Lord has done great things for us. We are in good hands – our God loves us – He has called us with a holy calling. Let that calling be real and true to all of us. Amen.
Thoughts from District Apostle John L Kriel