On Sunday 26 July 2020, Apostle Jeremia Joubert conducted the Sunday morning divine service at Sandton congregation. This divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language (SASL) at the altar by sister Natasha Parkins-Maliko.
He was accompanied by District Evangelist Seymour Holman, a small music ensemble and the NACTV crew. This divine service was made available on NACTV, Cape Town TV on DSTV channel 263, as well as Radio KC, Radio Teemaneng and SABIE stereo. Members could also listen to the divine service by calling in from either a mobile phone or landline. This divine service was also streamed live on the NACTV Facebook page.
For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: To our loving God sing praises (EH: 398)
Bible word: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” 1 John 4:9
My dear brothers and sisters, allow me to bid you a hearty welcome. We are gathered here this morning, and I believe we all have this desire to make a connection with our heavenly Father. Our word this morning deals with this amazing love as the musical item shared with us now: a miracle of love. God loves us. Us as mere feeble human beings. And, in all probability, we can now see how we as human beings, how vulnerable we are – where a small virus can do so much to us yet, our Father, our God, our Almighty loving heavenly Father loves us. We are the crown of His creation. God, who is the author of life, God who has introduced a salvation plan where we can be part of it - we have a future in God.
Our Bible word reminds us of this love for us. God is Love and the nature of love is that it wants to share itself - that's the nature of our Father. And we do not as, human beings, have the capacity to fully understand God, to fully understand on an intellectual and emotional basis how is our Father, who is our Father, so the best we can possibly do is to try and understand God in terms of concepts we understand. And one of them that God has given us is love. God is love. And to show His love to us, He has given us this miracle of love, His Son Jesus Christ. And He allowed Him to come here to Earth in this human form. Jesus Christ, who was perfect man, but also Jesus Christ as perfect God and He walked on earth. Now, I have often wondered why did it have to happen this way, why take on this human form because God is God, He could just have said: “it's done, I forgive you, I embrace you and we move on.” But I think that, in Christ, we have such a wonderful and such a powerful example. And, in Him as our role model, we can aspire to be more. Jesus Christ came to also bridge the gap between the past and the future because we are the future dear brothers and sisters, dear friends and our future is with God in His Kingdom. And Jesus is the one who is this channel of love from God the Father to our future. This word reminds us that God is love. Jesus is the channel to this love and when we can embrace the love, when we can become the love, then we have life in Jesus; we will live in Jesus.
How did Jesus bridge this gap on our behalf taking on this human form? A human being – like one of us, but with a difference – perfect God. Here, he established His work and started His church. He also helped us as human beings to migrate from an understanding predominantly focused on the natural so that we could also start seeing that God is about the future - a spiritual future. And in doing this Jesus did things that also we may be looking at them now to say that's what I want from Jesus. If we look at when Jesus was here, many of those who followed Him thought that He would deliver them from the Roman Empire, that as a nation they would start ruling themselves. So, in their desire for Christ it was: be our King; bring salvation from this natural environment. Many of them followed Him because of miracles. Maybe some of them, like us today, were caught up with an illness saying: I need healing - those were born blind, those who have other illnesses who followed Christ because they want that natural healing from Him. Many followed Him because of hearing about these miracles, and hearing what He has done, and maybe for some of them, it was also the thought of ‘I'm following the news’; following somebody who's popular. Maybe, in terms for our younger generation amongst us, maybe it was like somebody being popular on Twitter so we follow that handle. That’s what some of them did with Christ – they were excited. Some of them followed Him because they wanted a meal. We think of those instances where Jesus, on two occasions, fed the multitude; so they followed Him because that is what they wanted. Some followed Him because of the miracle of raising individuals from the dead. So, if we look at people and their following of Him and His miracles, I want to specifically focus on three categories of miracles which I think we may also be looking at now for ourselves. Those who were there because they wanted to be healed; or maybe they had a loved one who needed to be healed. Those who were looking for a meal - they were hungry, they followed Jesus and were there for Him, but they also needed some natural sustenance. And those who were devastated because of the loss of a loved one. Dear brothers and sisters, this is what COVID is doing to many of us. Many who are ill and all they are asking is ‘please I want to be healed; I want to be better.’ Sometimes, even when you are infected with the virus but you have no symptoms, the fear of what can happen; what if this impacts me? What if I get hospitalized? What if I maybe pass away; what will happen to my children, to my family? We lose our jobs because of this – where will my next meal come from? How will I be able to cope without a job? Maybe we have a loved one in the hospital; maybe we fear for their life and we pray that God please save them; don't allow them to pass away. And, unfortunately, even with our prayers, often God's will allows something else. This does not mean that we cannot come to God and we cannot ask Him to show us mercy on these things.
Dear brothers and sisters, God has something so more powerful that He wants to share with us. He wants to give us life in Christ. Now, this migration that we spoke of for Jesus to help us to move from being naturally focused to spiritually focus, He had to pay the greatest price possible. He had to be crucified; to be humiliated so that, in His crucifixion, His natural life could be taken away from Him, on a level we can understand. But with it, when He was crucified, He entered into the realms of the departed. He entered into a place where He could bring this message of hope to Souls in the beyond. And that gives us the comfort to know that this is not the end – there is something more - there is a future even if I may have completed my race on earth, there is a future and Jesus is at the heart of that future. But where the great transformation took place was when Jesus rose from the dead. His crucifixion gave us the ability to die off the old in us. And here we are not talking age. Here we are talking about our sinful nature. We are all sinners – that is what we have in common with one another. And we have this amazing capacity to be more and that is where Jesus wants to help us to become who we are supposed to be.
I have often thought that God’s perseverance with us is with the fact that He does not only see us for who we are now, but He sees us for who we can be. And that’s why He gives us this ability to grow. He gives us this example in Jesus to have a role model. And, even though we are fallible human beings, even though we have a sinful nature, we can grow to our perfection in Christ. And here we have God who is love; we have Jesus who is this channel. And, through His sacrifice, we now have the ability to grow in that character. And what is this character of Christ? Love – that we can love – we all have that ability. And, it may not be for all of us that easy to show love. It may not always be that easy to show the characteristics of love. But we all have the potential to love. Because, if we say we cannot do it, then what we are saying is that we cannot grow to the image of Jesus – and that is not what God wants for us. And, most often we need to overcome ourselves to grow to the image of Jesus. I must die and the image of Christ must grow within me. And that’s what today’s Bible word is about: God is the source of love; Jesus Christ is the channel to this love. And when we become the love, then Christ is in us.
But how does this impact us? How can we say that we love God who we have not seen, but we hate our brother and sister? When we do not show love we rob ourselves from this ability to love – and that’s what we want to do – to show love. Now, coming back to miracles, when we are spiritually focused, we actually show our love through these miracles we want in our lives. Often, when we ask for a miracle, and it is focused on something natural, it is all about ‘me’. I want better health for ‘me’, or I want better health for a loved one because that’s what I want. I want to keep my job because it’s about ‘me’ or maybe how I care for my family. I want healing and life because it’s about ‘me’. Where, if we look at love, love is not about me. Love is about others – my neighbour, my colleague, my friend. How do I love? Because the way that I love, even the strangers, impacts on the way I say I love God. God has given us this greatest gift – His love for us - and we have the ability to answer this love by loving each other. I know that it’s not always so easy to love everyone. To love our neighbours; maybe we have neighbours that are easy to live with – when you need help, you can knock on their door and they will be there. But, unfortunately, we also have bad neighbours. And some people make it difficult for us to love them. And, maybe, our escape clause could be to say I will love the easy ones, but him or her, they persecute me, they are doing something wrong against me – I am just writing them out of the script. That’s not what God wants. The focus is not on who is my neighbour, but it is to love my neighbour. That is how we embrace God who is love; how it is channelled to us and how we become this love is by loving my neighbour as I love myself.
We can’t change our neighbour; that is sometimes what we want to do. If they behave in this way or dress in a certain way, then I can embrace them. Dear brothers and sisters, we rob ourselves when we do that. What we can do is change ourselves – that is the control we have. We can become less judgmental because judgment drives away love for our neighbour. And, most often, we judge people because we don’t understand; we don’t have the knowledge of who they are. And, even in this, Christ gave us the answer on the cross, in a moment that must have been one of the toughest: “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” Most often when those who hurt us, those who disappoint us, when we feel someone has betrayed us; most often, when we find ourselves in that situation it’s because they don’t know what they have done to us; they don’t know the pain, the hurt and disappointment. Let us, therefore, not rob ourselves of loving them.
Now, coming back to these miracles, if we pray for these miracles today and we want to show that we have also migrated; we’ve grown to this higher spiritual level, it does not mean that I cannot pray for health, it does not mean that I cannot pray for my natural life. We can do those things – that is the nature of our Father. But, He wants to give us so much more. He wants to give us the ability to grow to this fullness of love. And when I, with a spiritual focus, pray for healing, then I ask for healing with my neighbour. Maybe, something happened and we are angry with one another. Often, I find that it is family who we find the most difficult to forgive. Within the church environment, somebody has done something against us, or we have that perception that they have done it against us – a minister even. And we say that we can’t forgive them because he has disappointed me. Ask for that healing so that you can forgive because, if we do not forgive, if we cannot forgive, the relationship breaks down. I can’t love. So, we pray for spiritual healing amongst one another. We ask for spiritual food – the word of God – insight into God. And that helps us to grow, and it also helps us to feed others spiritually because my neighbour matters to me. Because I love my neighbour, I want them to have a relationship with God; I want them to share in the power of Jesus Christ because we have a powerful Saviour. When I am spiritually focused and I pray for my neighbour, I also pray for their life – their spiritual life – because it does matter. And I don’t give up on them; I don’t withdraw. If we look at Jesus when He raised the dead; if we think of the widow of Nain, her son, Jesus was moved by her. Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus is moved by us when we care about others, and this is all His love – that’s the nature of Jesus. God is the source of love. Jesus is the channel to this love. But we need to make conscious decisions: I want to show love. And when we can migrate from only being naturally focused and we become spiritually at a higher level, then we develop the ability to ask for miracles – miracles to restore relationships, miracles where somebody can grow spiritually, miracles where someone can attain eternal life.
A final thought on this spiritual focus is a word that I just want to share with you and the spiritual context because sometimes we make the mistake of wanting to apply it in the natural sense and I share with you a word in Malachi 3 verse 10. This is often a word we focus on when we are looking at natural things: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be food in My house and try Me in this says the Lord of host. If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” Now we can imagine saying ok in my mind I see I bring my offering and now here opens the windows of heaven and I get all of these blessings. Now when we are focused naturally, that is exactly what we would want to see. But, let us for a moment think about what is this ‘windows of heaven’ on a spiritual level and compare it to a home. When you are at the house and you are standing next to that window and that window is open; what you hear on the inside, what you see on the inside, what you smell on the inside is there because the windows of heaven are open for you. And that's spiritually what God wants to give to us. When we have the faith, when we have the love for God and His work, what happens is I come and ask God to open the windows of heaven; give me the ability to see Your will, to hear You in my life, to have that lovely aroma of Your presence in my life. When I speak of this aroma I often think of someone cooking – just imagine that lovely aroma coming out of it. Now when we come to God and we trust Him with our future, we have insight into His plan of salvation. We have insight to His will for us. We have insight into the presence of Jesus.
So, if we summarise our word this morning dear brothers and sisters: God is love. And out of this love, He has given us, as a channel, His Son Jesus Christ to connect His love with us. Our responsibility is to embrace this and we do it by becoming this love. And how do we become this love? When I love God above all else, and I love my neighbour as myself. When my thoughts are not only focused on me but my thoughts, my prayers, my care on my neighbour; on restoring our relationship so that together we can be in this commanding relationship with God – that then leads to a life with Christ. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle Jeremia Joubert