On Sunday 20 May 2018, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider conducted a divine service in Washington, USA.
With all church activities currently suspended until further notice, the broadcast was made available on 03 June 2020 at 7 pm for all members to share in the blessing.
Opening Hymn: Praise thou the Lord (EH 58)
Bible word: "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14)
My dear brothers and sisters, it's a great joy and a great blessing to celebrate this feast of Pentecost with you here in the United States but also in all the connected countries with our brothers and sisters. Pentecost is a very important feast for us because it bears witness that God is a faithful one. You know, God promised that He would send the Savior, the Messiah. And He fulfilled this promise, but in a way, nobody could imagine. Something incredible happened. God, the Son, came on earth and became man. That was beyond everything man could imagine. God, the Son, came on earth and became man. Jesus announced that He will have to die, they will kill Him, but then He will go back to His Father. He experienced His resurrection, He raised from death and He was taken up to His Father in heaven in a way nobody could imagine, in a way nobody could explain. That was something so wonderful. A man raised, He was dead, He raised from death and He went into heaven. Nobody could imagine that. Jesus promised that He will send a comforter. I have no idea what the disciples thought. If they thought, okay, He will send a friend or somebody. It's not said it's the Holy Spirit. But when Pentecost arrived and the Holy Spirit was poured out, it happened in a manner nobody could imagine before. God fulfilled His promise. Jesus promised that He will come back to take the elected ones, His bride, upon Him. It will happen in a manner nobody can imagine. That's definitely beyond our understanding. Nobody can explain it. Nobody can describe it. The return of Christ can only be grasped in faith. But we know one thing. It will happen! Jesus will come and He will take His Bride up unto Him. Dear brothers and sisters, that's our joy of Pentecost. We know that God fulfils His promises. We cannot explain it. We cannot describe it. We need to grasp it in faith. But we know, we are convinced, it will happen. Our God is the faithful one.
On Pentecost, Peter promised that those who believed, who would be repentant, who would be baptized, will receive the Holy Spirit. And God fulfilled this promise, too. And later on, the faithful ones who were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit through the prayers and the laying upon of the hands of the apostle. And that was what Paul said here in our Bible verse. He said that those who received this gift of the Holy Spirit were sealed. You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. We know this image, this concept of being sealed. The seal refers to the idea that you belong to somebody. The owner puts his seal on something to show, 'That belongs to me. That's mine.' And the fact that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, with the Spirit of God, shows that we belong to God. We have a special relationship with God. We call it the Godly childhood. We belong to God. We became a child of God. That means that we have the right to inherit the heritage of God. The child is the one who is able to inherit the heritage of his father. And that's the meaning of the seal of the Holy Spirit. We got the right, we will be able one day to inherit the glory of God. The seal of the Holy Spirit, God tells us, ‘You are Mine.' It qualifies also the nature of this relation to God. Being sealed with the Holy Spirit, having this childhood, this Godly childhood, is much more than a contract. And when I speak about contract, in the United States, one knows what a contract means. It describes what you have to do and what the other one has to do. And it says if you don't respect the terms of the contract, the contract will be cancelled and you will be punished in some way. That's a contract. But to be sealed with the Holy Spirit, to get this childhood, this Godly childhood, is much more. It means you are a child of God. God loves you as His child and ‘Whatever you do, you will remain My child. Even if you do everything wrong, that won't change something for Me. I am your father, you are My child, I love you. And even if you do everything absolutely wrong, if you come back to Me, whatever has happened, whatever you've done, I will accept you as My child.' That's the meaning of this seal. Brothers and sisters, let us never forget that. Whatever happened, whatever will happen, whatever you've done, whatever you will do, never forget, if you come back to your Father, He will accept you as His beloved child. That's the seal of the Holy Spirit.
Paul says that this gift of the Holy Spirit is also the Holy Spirit of promise. So, it's also related to a promise. And actually, this gift of the holy sealing is the foundation of our hope. Paul, again said, if the Spirit who raised Jesus from death dwells in you, you can experience the resurrection of your body as Jesus experienced it. So, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit means you've got a promise. If this Spirit dwells in you, you can experience the resurrection of your body and you can enter the kingdom of God. So, our holy sealing is also the foundation of our hope. It's the Godly promise. You will experience the resurrection of your body and you can enter the kingdom of God.
Holy sealing is a seal, is a promise, and Paul adds it's also the guarantee of your inheritance. So, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit means also we've got a guarantee. God gives us a guarantee. What does this guarantee consist of? God tells us, 'Okay, you are My child, you can inherit the glory. And if this Spirit is living in your heart, you can experience the resurrection. And I give you the guarantee that I will fulfil the work I've begun.' No one, no power, no man, no spirit is able to hinder the plan of redemption of the almighty God. And even with the human understanding, we think now it becomes difficult. Remember the life of Jesus Christ on earth. No one could hinder the plan of redemption. And that's the guarantee with God through the Holy Spirit. God gives us the guarantee, 'I will fulfil the work I began with you. No one can hinder Me to offer you salvation.' This guarantee is even a little bit more.
God tells us, 'I've elected you to be My child and to enter my kingdom to be part of the bride and I give you the absolute guarantee that you can do it.' We've got also this guarantee. The one who is sealed with the Holy Spirit has the guarantee that despite his weaknesses, despite his human nature, despite his sins, he is able to be saved. His own weaknesses, his own sins cannot hinder him to be saved. 'I give you the guarantee,' said God, 'that you can make it.' And that's also very important to us to be aware of it. Sometimes we are discouraged because, actually all of us, we are weak sinners and we fall into sins again and again and again. But never forget, you've got the guarantee. You can make it. You are able to do it.
Don't lose your courage. Try and try again. Don't give up. Don't renounce. Go on working. You can do it! It's possible for you to be saved and to enter the kingdom of God. God grants us the guarantee that He will provide us all we need to enter His kingdom to be part of the bride of Christ. And as souls being sealed by the Holy Spirit, we have this guarantee. As long as we are willing to be prepared for the return of Christ, God will provide us all we need to enter His kingdom. And God will never decide something that will hinder our salvation.
That's a wonderful comfort, for instance, for our seniors. That's a wonderful comfort for the sick ones. They became weak and they can no longer attend services. And maybe they are anxious. 'How can I be prepared for the return of Christ?' If God has permitted that you are too weak, too old, that you are sick and you can no longer attend services, don't worry.
Through His Spirit, God will provide you all you need to be part of the Bride of Christ. You've got this guarantee. As long as you are willing to be prepared, God will provide it. You have the guarantee that despite the fact that we, the servants of God, we are weak men, sinners, imperfect servants, we've got the guarantee that the weaknesses of the servants of God won't be an obstacle for our salvation. We've got the guarantee. God committed Himself. 'Don't worry, I give you weak servants, sinners, imperfect human beings, but don't worry. You have the guarantee that you will get all you need to prepare your soul for the return of Christ.' That doesn't make it easier for us as servants of God. We are aware that we need more sanctification, we need more knowledge, we need more love, we need to improve ourselves.
But at least the members have the guarantee that despite the weaknesses of the servants, the imperfection of the ministers, the children of God who are willing to be prepared will receive all they need. All those who are really willing to be prepared will get what they need. For sure, I insist, and I have to, on this part, all those who are willing. Because if the return of Christ is no longer my priority, then the guarantee doesn't work. You know, if I want to enjoy life and, oh, let's take an easy example, and I want to go to a place or a country where it's sunny, nice people, easy life, and so on. And I want to enjoy my life, so I move to that place but knowing there's no church there. I've no possibility to attend the divine service. Then I cannot say, 'Oh, that doesn't matter. I'm sealed. I have the guarantee. God will provide me.' Oh, I wouldn't take that risk, you know? But then I have to check myself. Is the return of Christ indeed my first priority? Or do I prefer, my first priority is I want to enjoy my life. For sure, many of us, we have to work, but it's also a question of priority. If I decide to accept a job where I have to work 50 Sundays a year just to get more money, I am not sure that the guarantee works. Because then I cannot say, 'Oh, I have the guarantee.' Yeah, but are you really willing to be prepared for the return of Christ? Is that really your first priority? The Chief Apostle cannot decide about it. Your rector cannot decide about it. That's God's business.
But let us be aware this guarantee doesn't work in every case. It works for those who are really willing to be prepared for the return of Christ, for those who have it as first priority. It's not our task as servants of God to decide about it. That's a story between God and the believers. But let's be careful of that. Okay, that's just a remark about the guarantee. But in the U.S. I don't have to explain that. You are very gifted to know American contracts. You have the guarantee and then you have three pages that explain to you that the guarantee doesn't work. No? So, no need to convince you.
The Holy sealing is not only a promise, is not only a guarantee, is not only a seal, but it's also a pledge. You know that expression. It's the pledge, the deposit on eternal life. A down payment, to make it easy. We are told, 'You have the right. You can inherit the glory of God.' And through the Holy sealing, we got the pledge. So, we get in advance a part of the heritage. That's the meaning. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we receive this deposit, this down payment, this pledge. We can, right now, receive and enjoy a part of the heritage. What does the heritage consist of? Having eternal fellowship with God, living in His kingdom. And receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to have a foretaste of this life in the eternal kingdom of God, a foretaste of eternal fellowship with God. It's said in the Bible that after the return of Christ, having fellowship with Him, we'll see Him as He is, face to face. That's part of the heritage. We'll see Him as He is. We'll see Him face to face. That's the eternal glory we'll get after the return of Christ. But right now with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can have a foretaste of this fellowship with God and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can right now see God as He is, face to face. And more and more we can recognize His presence is with me.
More and more, we become aware of how God is and we become aware God is really love. We become aware indeed, God is almighty. We become aware, more and more, indeed God is grace. And through the activity of the Holy Spirit in our heart and soul, we come deeper into the knowledge of our God. For sure, we cannot yet see Him as He is, but we can get a pretty good idea about His nature. And this knowledge changes our life. It's part of our life. And now we act and we live according to this knowledge. Indeed, God is almighty. Indeed, God is love. Indeed, God is grace. And that becomes part of our life. A foretaste of what is waiting for us in the eternal kingdom of God. Having eternal fellowship with God, we live in the Godly peace. And the peace in the kingdom of God consists of everything according to the will of God. And that's the definition of peace of God. There's perfect communion because everything is according to the will of God.
Remember the beginning of the story, in Paradise, everything was according to the will of God and that was the peace of God. We'll experience this perfect communion with God in His kingdom, but right now through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can experience a foretaste of this peace. Because if we let the Holy Spirit be active in our heart and soul, the Holy Spirit will shape and form our thoughts, our nature, our wishes. And more and more, they will be in accordance with God's thoughts, with God's wishes, with God's will. And when that's the case, we have peace in our heart. Through the Holy Spirit, we can experience right now this prefiguration of the kingdom of God in eternity. We can experience it. It's still an imperfect one, but anyway, we can experience a foretaste of this peace because, once again, the Holy Spirit can shape our thoughts, wishes, and being to be in accordance with God's will and then we have peace in our heart. When we'll enter the kingdom of God and later on the new creation for all those who will be part of the new creation, it's said in the Bible then God will be all in all. A wonderful saying. I could talk about it for hours. That's such a wonderful promise. God will be all in all. Those who live in the fellowship with God have also another way to live together. They will be one in God. That's a quality of relationship between humans, between man, that we cannot even imagine. They will be distinct persons. Everyone will remain distinct, also in the kingdom of God, also in the new creation. Everyone will remain what he is in terms of person.
But all these distinct persons will be perfectly one in God because God will be all in all. So, a very wonderful quality of relationship. A relationship we don't know today, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, if our thoughts and being are shaped by the Holy Spirit, we can also have a foretaste of this communion right now, today, in this life with our brothers and sisters, with our neighbours. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome everything that divides us. What divides human beings today? Greed and egoism. Because they are greedy for wealth, for glory, for power. Paul said people bite and devour each other. And look into the world, isn't that a fact? Because of the greed for money, for glory, for power, because of the human egoism, actually many people bite and devour each other. But if our thoughts and our wishes are shaped by the Holy Spirit, we can overcome these things. And that allows us to have another quality of relationship with our neighbours, a small foretaste of the new relationship between human beings in the kingdom of God. We can also overcome our differences.
Today it's considered that, okay, all of us, we are different and these differences are an obstacle to be united. But seeing it with the Holy Spirit, we see it in a very different manner. Sure enough, we are different, but these differences are no longer an obstacle for us. It's a chance, it's a blessing because we want to form a team, a team of those who fight with God and for God, a team of those who are called by God to serve Him and to spread the gospel. And to fulfil this task and to prepare the return of Christ, we need to build up a team. And it's not a very efficient team if all are the same. We need our differences. I need the gifts of my neighbour, he needs my gifts. And these differences become a chance, an added value. Let's form a team to fight for God and with God. The differences are still there, but they are no longer an obstacle. They become a chance and a blessing if we are decided, let's be a team fighting for God and fighting with God. The gift of the Holy Spirit allows us to have a foretaste of the kingdom of God. We know God even better. We go deep into the knowledge of God. We cannot yet see Him as He is, but we've got a good idea and that shapes our life, that fills our life. We can overcome our differences. We can overcome everything that separates us, that divides us, and we can have a foretaste of the communion with God. We can have a foretaste of the peace of God.
And the last point, the gift of the Holy Spirit is also a calling. And I mention it right now. We are called to be witnesses of Jesus. We are not just, we haven't been sealed because we are the best ones and Jesus decides, 'Oh, this one is a good one, let's call him.' That's definitely not the case, at least not for me, for you, I don't know, but I tell you I know what I'm talking about, God didn't choose the best ones. He decided, 'Okay, I need this one, I need this one, you are called to serve Me, please be a witness of Jesus and help to spread the gospel, help to tell the people that the gospel is valid, that the teaching of Jesus is efficient, that it's the truth and salvation.' That's one aspect of this calling.
Another call, we are called also to profess the return of Christ. And allow me to insist a little bit on that. You know, it's said that the United States is still a very Christian country and honestly, I'm happy about that. Brothers and sisters, but as children of God sealed with the Holy Spirit, we are called to proclaim the return of Jesus Christ. The Christian faith is not a method to have a successful life.
When I go to a library and I go on the internet, I can find hundreds of books and methods to be successful in life. Plenty of people have written some books about that, how to be successful in life. And sometimes, I'm afraid that they consider that the gospel is just one of those methods. Let us profess that the gospel of Jesus Christ is much more than a method to become successful on earth. Let us profess that Christian faith is not just an amount of ethical standards. For sure, there's a Christian ethic. The gospel of Jesus Christ, Christian faith, is, in fact, an ethical standard, but it's much more than that. The Christian faith is based on a promise. It's about the future, it's about eternal life, it's about eternal communion and fellowship with God, it's about the Bride of Christ who is prepared on earth. And that's our task. That's not written in all these books. Let us profess the return of Jesus Christ. Let us profess we are Christians, we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit for the future, not just for this life. We want to enter the kingdom of God. We are waiting for the return of Christ. That's our calling and we prove it by preparing ourselves for the return of Christ. That's also part of this calling. We announce the future, the return of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of peace and the new creation. Jesus came to lead man into eternal fellowship with Him, not just to have success on this earth, not just to be a good Christian in this society. And the last calling, we have to be witnesses of Jesus Christ, to spread the gospel, we have to announce the future, and we are called also to allow our neighbour to have this famous foretaste of the kingdom of God. It's up to us to make it possible in our church that people can experience this foretaste of the kingdom of God. It's up to us that my neighbour can experience, indeed, God is love, God is grace, God is patient. Through me, he can experience it. He can experience the peace of Jesus Christ.
He can experience that the differences are no longer an obstacle to become one in Jesus Christ. He can experience that with the help of God's Spirit, we can be one in Christ despite we are distinct and very different persons. And that's my call to the people of God for this Pentecost. Let us allow our neighbour to know the gospel of Jesus Christ and to have a foretaste of the kingdom to come. What you experience right now in the midst of the children of God is just a small idea of yet what you will get in the future when Jesus will come in the eternal kingdom of God when we have fellowship with Him. That's our task. Let's do it together, one in Jesus Christ. We will be the first to benefit from it and we'll attract many people who are longing for experiencing this foretaste. Amen.