On Sunday 31 January 2021, Apostle G Mintoor conducted the morning divine service at Silvertown congregation. This divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language at the altar by Beryl Botha.
He was accompanied by Bishop G James, Shepherd Gavin Van Der Hoven, 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 Infinity FM 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: I’m the child of a King (EH:189 verses 1&4)
Bible word: “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
My dear brothers and sisters, dear friends, dear viewers, dear listeners, from wherever we gather, here is a beautiful connection for the purpose of this divine service. And when we listen to the musical piece, the lyrics say that earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. A very special musical piece, a very special hymn, especially in the sense that I think we all have learnt and heard this hymn already, we know this hymn, we sang this hymn. But in particular for me, when I stand here, I thought of my Confirmation. So, when the confirmands were invited to come and stand in front of the altar to offer the vow, then the choir sang this hymn. So, it has always been a very special hymn. And when we think now of Confirmation, I am especially reminded also of our confirmands for this year who also wait for the day to be announced when they will be confirmed. But even with that sorrow, even with that anxiety and that feeling that we have when will things normalize, when can we enjoy blessings, that dear brothers and sisters, all in the course of time. And while there are, even under these situations, sadness and sorrow and even unpleasantness, we continue to place our trust in God, our Heavenly Father. And as we gather, this morning, just yesterday (Saturday), at this very same altar, our District Apostle served the ministers, together with their families. And of course, there also we were encouraged, and we were comforted, to continue, comforted in the sense that there are fears. And for the disciples in the way they rowed on the water, the winds that came up, District Apostle spoke about the headwinds, the challenges that we have to face. And today, we want to come together and be mindful and present those challenges, which we have.
The word says this morning, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” And if we look at this divine service this morning, I thought about the past few services, already, it is the last service of the last Sunday of January. Time waits for no man. And while time waits for no man, time goes on, life goes on. And at the beginning of the year, we received a beautiful word with a motto, “Christ, our future”, then we heard that Christ is our teacher. And with His authority, He is our example. Then we heard that Christ is our brother. And last Sunday, we saw the service for the children, and that we have to make time with our children as well. Under normal circumstances, they would have remained behind for Sunday School, and the teachers would have been busy with them as well. And today, the word says, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed”. And we can put this divine service also under the heading Christ, grants freedom. So, the whole concept, the idea, the theme for this divine service is about freedom. So, when we talk about freedom, there are so many facets to talk about freedom and how free we are to speak, how free we are to act and engage out of this gospel of John. When we consider the background dear brothers and sisters, for the children normally when, after the service, they engage in Sunday School activities. The first question is normally asked, what did you hear in the divine service? And we normally start with what was the Bible word? So, I think I will help the children, parents, John 8:36, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” So at least you have one answer correct. And now, when we look at the gospel of John, compared to all the other gospels, there are three, Matthew, Mark and Luke. And they are known as the Synoptic Gospels. In those gospels, you find various events which are similar to one another. And they emphasize more on what Jesus said, and what He did. And then we have the gospel of John, a little bit different also in its style of writing, and the way certain statements are being made. Firstly, maybe as a matter of interest, we all know if you should ask the question, where in the Bible do we find the shortest verse? The shortest verse in the Bible is in John. Two words: “Jesus wept”. That's the shortest verse in the English translation. And then when we look at John, there are no parables in the Gospel of John. There are certain unique features also in the Gospel of John, maybe the encounter with Nicodemus. You don't find that in the other gospels. The encounter with the woman at the well of Jacob; it’s only recorded in the book of John. And then Jesus speaks to His contemporaries. He spoke to Nicodemus and He said to him, “You shall be reborn again”. And that was a little bit of a surprising element out of the statement here in John. The way, John portrays Jesus – he emphasizes, and the Christology that we receive in this gospel. He brings Jesus closer. And we can actually say, while the other gospels speak about what He said and what He did, maybe John portrays Him as who is Jesus. So, when he speaks to Nicodemus, who shall be born again, he did not understand this. And then He speaks to this woman, and they are at a well, where they draw water. So, water is the subject and the issue. And all of a sudden, Jesus speaks about the living water. And she was totally confused - what do You mean by the living water? And now today, brothers and sisters, here we have a word: “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed”. So, we can take this word at face value, and we can think about all the constraints or limitations, whatever we have to go through that which limits us, that is in a literal sense. And maybe we can tick off I got rid of this and that whatever the case may be, but maybe let's look at this word on another level. And as we continue, that shall become clear unto us. Because when we look at the preceding verses, the textual unit in which we find this word, from verse 31, “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him”, it is quite interesting to note that they believed in Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples, indeed’. So, they could say, but we are doing this. We can say, but I'm a child of God, I come to every divine service, I am here every Sunday, every Wednesday, my sins are forgiven. So, what is this hold that you talked about? And this was the same argument with those disciples. “They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, You will be made free’?” And Jesus answered them, “‘Most assuredly, I say to you whoever commits sin is a slave of sin’”. And therefore, we can also identify with the issue of sin. When we consider a slave, and we talk today about freedom, in the context in which Jesus found Himself, a slave, of course, needs to work. And when you do that work as a slave, there is no corresponding salary, there's no corresponding reward or even acknowledgement, you are just a slave, and you will have to do your work. The same in the time of the Apostle Paul, he also spoke to the congregation of the Galatians. And there he also used the example of a slave, but then he also speaks to the children of God, to those who believe in Jesus. And then he says, you are no longer a slave, but now you are a son, and if a son, then an heir, and if you are an heir, then of course, you will receive that which is from God, our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ. That we can read in the first few verses of Galatians four. A slave has to work and is held captive, and of course, has to deliver, and there is a demand on the slave. So, a slave can't speak about freedom. Now, of course, we don't have any slavery today. I don't think so. But, here, we have a free country, a free society. We have a beautiful constitution; we talk about our human rights. District Apostle spoke yesterday to the young people and to the children. And he said to them, be a child of God in your own right, and not because of the family where you come from, where your father serves in the ministry. And we know that sometimes it is the children of the minister that cause all the trouble. Okay, that is in passing. And the child is always so under pressure because the father must stand here, and he sets the standards, and he teaches and preaches to the congregation and they must live the example - tremendous pressure on our children. Live your life as a child of God in your free accord.
And out of the freedom of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, that is what we want to experience here today. In a simple outline, today we want to talk about freedom and Jesus Christ. In the example that we have here, He spoke to the Jews. And it's clearly said that they believed in Him. And still, while they believed, and sometimes, we have a problematic faith, then today, we believe and tomorrow we don't believe. And when it goes well with us, it is easy to praise God. And when there are challenges when there’s sadness, and when there are problems, then we question, then we doubt, then it is difficult. Then we allow ourselves to be limited due to the one or the other constraint. In a modern sense, freedom is where we have the ability to act freely, to speak freely. And we even have the freedom of movement until nine o'clock tonight. After that, lockdown rules. And we can all talk about, again, the issue of the lockdown levels, we don't want to go back to level five. And we came right down to level one, and back to an adjusted level three, with lots of restrictions, and people became frustrated. But while we find ourselves in this lockdown period, we manage to live our lives. And here and there sometimes we become comfortable. If you can well imagine the time that we started to wear masks, how uncomfortable that was and you were more concerned about how other people will look at you, will they be able to recognize you, will you be able to recognize somebody else? And nowadays, it has become second nature to wear your mask. And then of course to sanitize your hands, to maintain your social distance. I think we know that by now it has become second nature for us. But in the beginning, it was uncomfortable, but we became used to it. Maybe for the children, we don't want to talk now about school rules, but there are still school rules. This is a reminder for them as well. And then with the rules, you are okay, but the moment you transgress any one of those rules, then sometimes you are summoned to the principal's office – there’s trouble, the moment you transgress the one or the other rule. Our drivers on the road as well. I must say that to myself as well when I travel later on today. The indications are quite clear on the road. And as you maintain them, you should be free, nothing should happen to you. It's only when you go over the limits, and somebody stops you, then there’s trouble. So, within the rules, there could even be freedom. Somebody once said that freedom is more than just casting off the chains from your hands, then you are free. Because you were chained, now they are off. But real freedom is when you live a life that enhances and respects the freedom of others. And with that brothers and sisters, we want to look now at Jesus and freedom in this particular context. When He spoke to them, ‘the Son will make you free’. And they argued, ‘but we are free, we are believing and we live our faith, we believe, we follow the law, there's nothing wrong with us, how can You say that?’ And so brothers and sisters, then comes the issue of sin, sin seeks to bind us, sin seeks to separate us from the love of God. Sin seeks to separate us from eternal fellowship with God, our Heavenly Father. And here, Jesus comes to offer freedom to those who believe in Him. And as believing Christians, Jesus offers salvation. Today, we will hear the words ‘Your sins are forgiven’. And all this adds up to our preparation for the return of Christ. And we need to enjoy that freedom, the freedom of movement, Christ, our future. And if we are limited in any way, then, of course, there is no movement, or it will be a slow movement. And sometimes when you run the race, we hear extensively about running the race. And then sometimes you need to have your pacesetter in front of you and according to that pace you need to run, and yes, some of us do it at a slow pace. Eventually, we will get there but the freedom of movement, is with Christ as our future. And Jesus offers us this freedom.
On this point, Jesus and freedom brothers and sisters, this group of people, they were quite confident, and they said, ‘but we believe’, what we learn out of that is they maintained their identity. So, we need to talk about our identity. Sometimes, they ask you for your ID. And when you look at your face today, and you look at the face on the ID, it looks like different pictures altogether. Sometimes people ask is it really you. But you make a phone call to certain companies, they phone you, and they do what we call a security check. They are asking those questions to make sure they speak to the right person. And this group of people, they maintained their identity. If the word says today, ‘The Son will make you free’, in this instance, brothers and sisters, not just in a literal sense, but let's look at our identity, and how free are we to live our identity. In the first instance, when we live our identity as children of God, then we continue with our belief in Jesus Christ. This reminds us of a certain Article of our Faith. Coming back to our Sunday School children, or maybe the young people, or maybe the parents, the whole family as we are. How many Articles of Faith do we have? Ten articles. So, the one that I'm speaking about is the one that says, I believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary. And of course, we know He suffered under Pontius Pilate, He died, He resurrected, He ascended. And of course, that is our second Article of Faith. And given the exposure of our time, brothers and sisters, for a long time, we could not attend divine services. For a long time, we could not celebrate Holy Communion. I think of the children that must be baptised, so many souls that must be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. And in this lockdown, and in this inactivity, of not attending the divine services, we might also become comfortable. It's nice and easy, laid back in terms of our life of faith. And now comes the word, ‘The Son will make you free’. And we might pose the question, but what's wrong with me? Maybe I'm too comfortable. And how will it be one day when we are invited to return. We talk about the return to church activity. How excited are we still to do that? And even if you can't attend the divine service, let us maintain our identity, our identity in the sense that we still, and we continue to believe in Jesus Christ. Our identity, brothers and sisters, that we maintain the values of the gospel. Our identity, that we are prepared to share the gospel with others. We enjoy the divine service, even on this platform that we have. And when we talk about the divine service, of course, there is our prayer life, constant prayer life, wherein which we give adoration unto God our Heavenly Father. And when we give adoration, we give thanks. And we have seen so many troubles, concerns, a very sad time where we have limitations. I think of those who have lost their work, there's no income, there's poverty. There are those that don't know what will happen tomorrow at their place of work if there will be business. And just this anxiety, the frustrations thereof. The one or the other who has passed on. The why questions? Would we still be able to even with those challenges? Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. Even with all those sorrows, am I still able to maintain my identity that I am willing to continue to believe in Jesus, to maintain the values of the gospel and to continue to pray. And when we consider freedom, and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit leads us, the Holy Spirit inspires us. And when we consider the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, brothers and sisters, then there's one fruit of the Spirit which I just want to highlight, one of those fruits of the Spirit, self-control. And when we think of the things that we want to get rid of, maybe there are certain cravings. It is now the end of the month already, when we come from the festive period, remember, maybe there were certain resolutions this year in terms of my diet, what I eat and what I drink, and so on. Maybe we can do a progress check in terms of those cravings, are we doing well? How is it with us? Maybe another limitation or problem that we encounter these days is opinions. We have so many opinionated people. Everybody today has become a very knowledgeable person in the field of virology. They can tell you the best as to how the virus spreads. People study the issue of the vaccine, why you must take the vaccine, why you must not take the vaccine. Everybody has an opinion. And even when it comes to our life of faith, there is also an opinion. And people make their own opinions clear. And sometimes when they make their own opinions clear, that is sometimes to inculcate and to dominate your freedom, our freedom, limiting our freedom of belief, because of their convictions, those opinions. And when we are faced with those opinions, we know social media, it's easy to go and report and to write and to inform your opinion. Many people unfortunately also landed in trouble for the statements, unfounded statements they made. We have to face those consequences. Christ, the Son, shall make you free. And our salvation, brothers and sisters, will never be dependent upon the opinion of what somebody else has to say. Our salvation is dependent upon the grace of God, our Heavenly Father. The word today says, ‟Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Jesus came to offer freedom to those who believe in Him. The Holy Spirit leads us into a beautiful fellowship of eternal freedom with God, our Heavenly Father, Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle G Mintoor