On Sunday 7 February 2021, District Apostle J Kriel conducted morning divine service at Sandton congregation. This divine service was conducted in English.
He was accompanied by District Apostle Helper MP Mkhwanazi, Apostles A Page, S Mogane and J Joubert, District Evangelist A Smal, a small musical 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 need Thee ev’ry hour (EH: 245)
Bible word: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5:3)
District Apostle Kriel:
My dear brothers and sisters, I want to say what a lovely story that is, that we praise our Lord and God all day long no matter what (referring to the hymn sung after text – “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine”). And while we listened to this beautiful rendition, I thought of each one of us, wherever you are, each one of us has a story. And that story may not be what we think it is. Because sometimes, we look at our neighbour, and we think we know. But remember, you only know a portion of your neighbour’s truth. Each one has their own story. And sometimes we think our story is really the worst there is. Sometimes we can wallow in self-pity until you hear the story of another, until you hear how strong they were and are. And in this time of our pandemic, I've heard many stories, stories that humbled me, stories that said, Lord, how much more can one take? But God’s people remained strong because the biggest story is they have our Lord and our God as we have sung in, some of us, or as we have listened, I need You ev’ry hour and we want our God to know that, we want Him to know we cannot do without Him. We cannot. Some people are very dependent on others. You know, sometimes we think at work they can't do without me; I am the best that happened to this company. And there was one guy who thought that, and the boss called him in one day and he said, “Look, we don't know what we're going to do without you, but we're going to try from Monday”. So that means they separated their togetherness. So, we will not do that to our God. And thanks be to God that He does not do that to us, no matter what our story is, no matter our mistakes and our failings. He says to each one of us, you are still My child. He says to each one of us, I still love you. He speaks to each one of us to say My intention to be with you forever is still intact and we want to make that our story today that our Lord and our God loves us unconditionally.
Today we have a word here out of the book of Matthew. And we know we heard in a couple of services that each book, each gospel, the Synoptic Gospels, the three of them, each one has its own character and the authors put their emphasis on various things. And if you go through Matthew, Matthew was very determined to show that Christ is the Messiah, He is the fulfilment of all the promises that were given, and he wanted to put Jesus where He belongs. He wanted to remind us and remind the people of that time who held Moses in high regard, he said Jesus is the new Moses. He is the new one that is like Moses who was the law and reinterpreted the law, now we have Jesus. We don't want to go into great detail but already the similarities you can see of, remember when Moses was born, there was a decree that all the male children should be killed. Was it not the same with Jesus? And Matthew kind of put that picture straight that here was the new Moses. And He was the law, He interpreted the law for the people. In fact, I think six times in Matthew, Jesus said the words, “You have heard that it was said to those”. But then He said, “But I say to you.” So, you've heard that before, “But now I say to you now there is a new commandment, now listen to what I have to say to you.” And He did this by teaching in the temple, by gatherings and here, our Bible word today out of Matthew comes out of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus gives great teaching. Here are the few chapters in Matthew where we can read and be guided. In the first beatitude that we know about Christian faith, the beatitude of Jesus - blessed and so on. And the fourth one says, and I thought of many among us, ‘Blessed are those who mourn;’. The Lord was aware of you too. So, blessed are you too. But now we focus on, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Another characteristic of Matthew was when he said kingdom of God, he preferred to say kingdom of heaven. That's the same thing really, it was just his style. So, blessed are the poor in spirit. And if one looks at the poor - Jesus, the Son of God, the Master, the Lord, He spent time with the poor. He cared for the poor, the poor often marginalized by society then as they are now, and He wanted them to know, He wanted the poor to know, God loves you, God is with you. Others may reject you; others may not want to have company with you, others may think nothing of you. But God loves you and you are valuable to Him. That was the Lord's message to the poor. And we read in the Gospels that the poor does not mean you cannot have salvation because you are poor, you do not qualify for salvation. Not at all. All can be saved and all must come to the knowledge of the truth. And if you think about that, you are not denied salvation because you are poor, salvation is not automatic because you're poor. Because you can say okay, well let's give this guy compensation, shame, he was poor all his life, he didn't even have enough to eat, let's make him a king and a priest in the kingdom of heaven, no, it's not so. On the other hand, material wealth and material goods do not qualify you from being a follower of Christ either, because we read with Jesus there were wealthy women who followed Him, and not only followed Him but made financial contributions towards His cause. Because if you think, Jesus said to eat, He had to live somewhere, so, there were those who had wealth and they then made it available to Jesus so that He could carry out His mission. It’s similar today, the Church needs offerings so that it can fulfil its mission to prepare the bride of Christ. And there were many who had material wealth that supported Jesus in his cause. So, we can then come to the conclusion that ‘poor in spirit’ has got nothing to do with your heritage. It's got nothing to do with how much money you inherited. It's got nothing to do with your bank balance. Nothing. That’s of little consequence. As it is stated here, it's got everything to do with our relationship with God. And so, we can then deduce from this, and no matter how young or old we are, we must remember that I am not what I have. Or, I am not what I don't have. If people want to judge you by the car you drive or the house you live in, that will be for a while. Remember the guy that said in the parable he must build bigger barns because everything is okay and then his soul was demanded of him. So, we must be aware that it's not a sin to be rich, but it's not a sin to be poor either. We do the best that we can with what we have. And I know of children and maybe the children can listen, that they don't play with other children because they don't wear the same name brands as they wear or they cannot give a party as they give. Dear parents, dear children, let's put the right values where it belongs, that we evaluate everyone for who they are and not for what they have. So, it's about the relationship. It's not about poverty or wealth. It's our relationship with God that matters. And that's important because some people believe they can be happy without God. They take God out of the equation. But we need God for our spiritual balance because man was created by God to have fellowship with Him here and for all eternity. So, can we take God out of the equation?
Can we replace God with things or with anything else for that matter? No, we cannot. God remains a part of us, a great part of us. I need You ev’ry hour, that is our story that God is part of us and will remain part of us always. Let's put Him in the right place. And if it has diminished a little bit, let's make the adjustments. I was a very junior person when I started working as most of us, every one of us I would imagine, but my boss called me in one day. He said, “Hey, I don't understand you”. He said, “Is something wrong with you?” I said: “No sir, I don't know.” I was always at work and so on. He said: “You are so poor but you are so happy, what's wrong with you?” I almost wanted to say to him you're so rich and so unhappy, I think something is wrong with you. But what's the source of our joy? The source of our joy can never be earthly wealth. It can never be anything of this earth. It can only be God who is eternal, who chose us and who loves us. And so, we acknowledge we need God – He is our everything. Without Him, we can do absolutely nothing. We don't want to do anything without Him. And so, blessed are the poor in spirit. That's the poor in spirit. Because those who are poor in spirit can become rich in Christ. Remember, we had a watchword a year or two ago ‘Rich in Christ’, and to be rich in Christ, you must be poor in spirit, and when you are poor in spirit you realize I cannot do anything on my own; I am totally dependent on my God.
We think of Adam and Eve, the first two human beings, that existed. They had a relationship with God. They were obedient to God up to a point where they thought but why do we have to listen to God, we can decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. We can decide for ourselves what is right and wrong and that's when their problem started. They almost said actually we don't need God anymore. We can work this all out ourselves and then they made some poor choices and they suffered the consequences. Dear brothers and sisters, dear guests and friends, when we decide to make our choices without God and we make our own choices, we somehow don't make wise choices and the consequences of those choices is not great. We have a chance to fix it. Return to the Lord, we read in Hosea. And if we find ourselves on that way, come, let’s go back because when you use the weapon of obedience, you will make wise decisions, decisions that our God will bless and you will experience His blessing and His joy and happiness because that's what obedience does. Disobedience often brings unhappiness. And when we realize we are fully dependent on God; we will remain humble. We will remain poor in spirit and say, God lead me, You guide me, You tell me what to do. Remember, when your children were small, they wouldn't do anything without you. And when they cross the road, they said hold my hand. Even when they wanted to fall asleep, they said hold my hand so that I can fall asleep. And on a day, you realize when you say come, they say no, I don't need to take your hand anymore. I can cross the road all by myself. And you know, the children are growing up much faster. They're becoming independent. You see 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-year-olds saying you don’t need to help me, I know. Okay, they are quite clever because I must say that you depend upon them to help you with your cell phone and stuff like that and that gives them ideas. So, we don't want to fall into that trap. We want to know that we need God. Remember, Adam and Eve, wanted to remain under His hand and remain obedient and follow that which He wanted. And the poor in spirit will do that and realize, I know so little, I am so small, God is so big and He will do that for me. Does man not sometimes like to know and to understand everything? I think we are wired that way. Even when we were little, we got a toy, we took it all apart because we wanted to know how does this work? We want to know that; we want to know everything. And more than that, we want to be in control. We must be in control because that's just how it's supposed to be. But, we see with this Coronavirus, we thought we were in charge. We thought we were in control. We thought we could handle anything; we've got tanks and ships and airplanes. We can do that come what may. Here comes an unseen enemy, and somehow, we are sort of not in charge anymore. Somehow, we don't understand everything. When that happens to a child of God, then go back to what you do understand. And dear brother, dear sister, dear friend, what do we understand, what do we know? We know God loves us. We know He wants to give us His kingdom; He wants to take us to heaven. We know that He has gone to prepare a special place for all man. That we know. So, let's focus on what we know. And let's not waste too much energy on what we do not know. No matter what the circumstances may be, we trust God, we follow Him, we remain obedient to what He teaches. And now more than ever before, we really don't know. We really don't understand. We really don't have all the answers, but we have God, He is with us. The poor in spirit will remain by Him. So, even when we don't understand, let's follow Him. And let's realize that we cannot do anything on our own merit. We cannot get to God's kingdom all on our own, we depend wholeheartedly on His grace that He can lead us to His kingdom. We sometimes forget that God knows me better than I know myself. He knows all of us better than we know ourselves. And sometimes we complain and say does God really expect this of me. This is too hard. How can I be like Jesus? And of course, we fail sometimes. The poor in spirit will not be affected by the mistakes, by their failures. They'll pick themselves up again knowing that our God is with us. He will help us; on our own, we cannot. But with His help, we are able to achieve the goal that He set for us, namely, to attain salvation, namely, to be with Him and therefore we are and we remain poor in spirit. Remember, He knows us better than we know ourselves and He will never give us a burden that we are not able to bear. So, He opens the door so that we can attain worthiness and we can become like Him, and we know that if we want to be worthy and attain worthiness, then we must become like Christ. We must become like Him, and He teaches us from time to time so that His nature becomes our nature. And when we remain poor in spirit, we know we cannot achieve anything on our own merit. We realise that everything is dependent upon God. I need him all the time as we have sung, ‘I need You every hour’. We need God. And on our own, we come with so little. Our God knows so much. So, we place ourselves under His care and know that we remain obedient, hold His hand. We want to remain poor in spirit no matter what our situation is in life. If we have a lot or not so much, that doesn't matter. At the end of the day, we are going to be with our God forever because when we leave this earth, whatever we’ve accumulated actually means very little. But what we have stored up for ourselves in heaven, where no moth or rust can corrupt, that will be forever, with our heavenly Father. And so, we want to take this word and we want to remain poor in spirit. You know, I think that is really not such a great ambition to say that you want to be poor, or that guy will say, okay, don't go to school stay home. That's not really how it fits in our society. No, we want to be poor in spirit so that God can be great. And the smaller or the poorer I am in spirit, the greater My God will be. And we will bow under His hand always. Amen.
Thoughts from District Apostle JL Kriel