District Apostle J Kriel conducted a divine service in Unisa, Pretoria on 7 December 2018. With all church activities currently suspended until further notice, the broadcast was made available on Wednesday 10 June 2020 at 7 pm for all members to watch.
For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: The Bridegroom comes (EH 425)
Bible word: “Imitate Me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Dear brothers and sisters, we gather here in God’s house as a family, and perhaps we can ask ourselves: ‘do I really know my family?’ Do I really know my wife, my husband or my children? And maybe that can be a lesson for us now: come, let’s get to know each other – we may just discover that we are not so bad after all. If only we knew, and if only we understand that we have good children – get to know them. Get to know how they are and not how we would like them to be. And that sort of thing you can only learn if you speak and interact with them. Dear children, get to know your parents – they are not so bad – because, often, you only miss them when you haven’t got them anymore. Everything is based around relationships, and ultimately, our relationship with God is what matters – get to know Him.
And this is really what Paul says in our Bible word – he got to know Jesus. He didn’t know Him before, but he got to know Him. He was subjected to all the things they said about him until he got to know Jesus. And the more he knew Jesus, the more he loved Jesus. And the more he loved and knew Jesus, the more he wanted to become like Jesus. For us, the word ‘imitate’ is normally a negative word – if you get something that is an ‘imitation’ it’s normally bad. But here the word ‘imitate’ means ‘be like’. Paul says to us: “Be like me, as I am like Jesus; imitate me as I imitate Jesus.” When we go on this journey, when we’re getting to know each other - even in the circle of a family - put Jesus in the centre. When we want to get to know each other, put Jesus in the centre. When we want to get to know our brothers and sisters, put Jesus in the centre. And when that is so, the more we will know and love Him – I am convinced. Sometimes, we just go with the general consensus; if someone labels another person we all tend to jump on the bandwagon. Jesus didn’t do that – He got to know people. Zacchaeus was a thief as far as everyone else was concerned. But was Jesus deterred by that? No, He wanted to get to know Zacchaeus. The woman at the well, of ill-repute – everybody avoided her – but Jesus said no, He wanted to get closer to her; He wanted to get to know her. And when they did, look at the change that took place. The woman who was to be stoned – I am convinced that those who stood with stones in their hand didn’t even know her – but they just saw everyone else who was willing to stone her. They were all there ready to throw until Jesus said: “Those who have no sin cast the first stone.” Before you throw that stone, get to know your neighbour. Come, let us get to know each other – in our homes, in our family, in our congregation, in our society.
Before Paul could be like Jesus, he first had to get to know Jesus. And he got to know Jesus in a particular way. How do we know Jesus? Did Jesus not do the will of the Father? Because we all need to become like Jesus. We cannot be like Him completely, but we can become like Him. We are sinful, but He had no sin. His nature should become part of our life – we should strive to be like Him. He said: “Whatever the Father wants of me I will do, Lord, not My will but Your will be done.” “If you love Me, keep My commandments” says Jesus. There’s an attribute, a characteristic of Jesus – His will was not as important as the will of His Father. And if we want to become like Him, and we know Him, and that is the will – then what is my will? Do we say ‘Lord, this is what I want, it must be done my way.” No. let us be like Jesus and find out what the will of my Father is. That is one characteristic of Jesus – He did what the Father wanted Him to do. If we really get to know Jesus, we want to do the same.
Another aspect of the life of Jesus – He was not spared suffering; He was not spared torment – He had to suffer too. Just because He was the Son of God doesn’t mean that he had any privileges to say this will pass Me by. No. He had to suffer too. As we get to know Jesus, and as we try to become like Paul and Jesus, then we must be prepared for suffering too. How often do we ask: “Lord, why me?” Let us not lose faith. Paul, who said “imitate me like I imitate Jesus”, did he not have that thorn in his side and said “please remove it?” and to him, it was said: “My grace is sufficient for you.” We are servants, and sometimes we want to know why must our wives suffer, why must I suffer, why must my child suffer? Because I give my time to God. Dear brothers and sisters, we are and remain servants, and like Jesus, we also have to suffer.
Remember, Jesus did the will of the Father – He suffered – and then He also said: “I came to serve and not to be served; I came to serve and be the humble one.” Remember how He washed the feet of His disciples? That was the work of a slave. Jesus did this to show that He was here to serve – that was His life – a life of serving. That is why He came – not to be the boss, but to be the One who came to serve. And that is our life. If we want to be like Jesus, then we must serve Him. Did Jesus not also say “love each other as I have loved you?” How did He love us? Unconditionally. Never mind our faults and our failings – He loved us. And if you want to be like Him, we must love each other.
Another great characteristic of Jesus: He was willing to forgive. And He did not only forgive, He actually made an excuse, He said: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It’s not easy to be like Jesus. There is a story of two boys who were arguing because the mother said there are two apples for them and one was bigger than the other. And they fought over who was going to get the bigger apple. The mother was unhappy with this fight and she called them and told them if they were like Jesus there would be no problems because Jesus was always the least, Jesus would have taken the smaller apple. And then the older brother said to the younger one ‘ok, you be Jesus, because you must be the least.’ Let us say: come, let us be like Jesus. I think we sing in one of our hymns “Jesus nature give to me.” That nature should become evident in our actions and interactions with each other. If we love, we want to love unconditionally. In a natural sense, we love because of something, but when we talk about the love of God, He loves us in spite of everything. He knows everything about us – good and bad – and He still loves us. Isn’t that great? Should we not love like that? We should be able to embrace without prejudice. We tend to make our own rules and set our own boundaries, but do you know what? If God made you, that is enough reason for me to love you. That is why we love each other, and we love everything that God created – even the natural creation. Remember, God made it. And if He made it, I will love it – that’s my job. We cannot choose our congregation. We cannot choose our brother and sister – that’s not my job, that is God’s job. My job is to love whoever I have been given.
Now we have come and we assist the Apostles in their task in preparing the bride of Christ; in fulfilling His commission to them to go and to do what they must do. We want to follow that same steps. We cannot do whatever we want to do – we must do the will of God. We cannot preach whatever we want to – we must preach God’s word and not our opinion because that is a danger too. Sometimes, we can preach our opinion and not the word of God. That governs us. Remember, Noah had to build an ark. He often built alone. In fact, he built alone most of the time. And he couldn’t build any way, he had to build the way God told him to build. We cannot do what we want. We said to the Lord that we will do His will; I will preach what you tell me to preach and the gospel will remain pure. We want to do the work of God with a pure heart. God’s will is dominant. God’s will is what is most important. We cannot just do whatever we want to do.
And then, also, because Jesus suffered, we will also suffer – everything will not go our way. I know how we pray – I know how you pray – we plead with our God to hear and answer our prayers. And, sometimes He does not listen. But He says to us, in a way, that we should work with what we have – that is what He gave us – His grace is sufficient for us. Even when the Lord doesn’t answer all of our prayers, we will remain true servants and true workers in the house of God, because we are doing it for Him and blessings come from Him. We want to be willing tools in His hand always so that we are able to fulfil His will. We do not come for our own benefit that we must profit. Remember, being the least. We come and do the work of God so that all can benefit – that all man can be saved; that all can come to the knowledge of the truth. We don’t do the work of God for honour and glory. No. We remain humble. And then, like Jesus, in our ministry we also love. We love all. We are not prejudice. We love everyone. You are always going to need to overcome the people you don’t like. If you do not love them, you have to work on it because that is important because God is love, and Jesus teaches us love.
We must also forgive. Paul was a servant, and in my books, he was probably one of the greatest servants. Paul did maybe more than anyone else. Was he loved by all? No. He was criticised by many. He was attacked by many. The congregation wanted to know how he could do this, how could he say some of the things he said. And here, the love had to come into action. Here he had to prove and he had to forgive. That happens to us too. As servants, there are those who love you, but you are also the servant of those who don’t love you – those who say nasty things about you. But you cannot retaliate – you must retaliate like Jesus would retaliate. Was Paul perfect? No. Because he said that the things he wanted to do, he found it so hard to do, but the evil that he didn’t want to do, that he practised. He said that. He wasn’t perfect. And so, God’s servants are not perfect – we have our faults and failings – but Paul invites us and wants us to come with him in becoming like Jesus. He wants us to come with him on this journey and fight with him so that we can obtain the beauty of that blessed state. Amen.
Thoughts from District Apostle John L Kriel