On Sunday 22 August 2021, Apostle Sipho Mogane conducted the central AVT divine service at Sandton congregation. The divine service was conducted in English and translated into South African Sign Language (SASL) at the altar by sister Natasha Parkins-Maliko.
He was accompanied by District Elder Denver Benn, 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. 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: Give of your best to the Master (EH: 128)
Bible word: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2)
My dear brothers and sisters, welcome to the living altar of our Lord and God. In this morning’s hour, we come once more to bask under the word of God to come and celebrate the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ in celebration of Holy Communion. And in the month of August, we have been occupied with our main theme which has been the Gospel, the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ came here on earth to announce that the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God is at hand. And this month, we've been looking at certain aspects of this good news. What is most important about this good news? What is key? The first week, we looked at what is most important. Love for God and our fellow man, and the belief in Jesus Christ. That was very clear to us. We need to be able to distinguish that which is important, and that which is not so important. We also heard about an invitation that God has made. An invitation for us to come into eternal fellowship with God, that we have to be in fellowship with one another, in fellowship with the congregation. God invites us through an invitation. This invitation to fellowship with God has been made known to all. We have to accept the invitation and begin the walk with our Lord Jesus Christ. It was only last week where we looked into serving God. We do accept this invitation. We do walk with our Lord Jesus Christ. But there is a Christian duty that we have. We must serve God. We must serve Him both in word and in deed. And this we take and own as our Godly work to serve God and to serve man.
This morning, I read from the book of Psalms. A beautiful collection of poetic hymns and prayers that have been put together. The book of Psalms is a very beautiful collection. And the main aim of it is really to worship God, through these hymns, or prayers, or poems, that we worship God, and we get to learn the nature of God. This morning we are going to look at another aspect of the Gospel which is that we have to orientate and direct our lives according to God's will. And this we will do by looking at this contrast, a path, if it's been introduced to us as two paths for that matter. On the one side is the path of the ungodly. And on the other side, we have another path of those who are righteous. We are going to explore this. And this will help us to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have to see the chaff away from the wheat so that we can concentrate on what is most important. Psalm 1 is part of a collection of wisdom Psalms, those that come in this subsection of wisdom literature. Similarly, like the Proverbs where you find a tone, or a kind of a dialogue between a father and his son, where a master and an apprentice is having some sort of a dialogue. The master is communicating certain things, great wisdom to this apprentice. And here it starts with a beatitude, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.” So, the first group is introduced, those who are regarded as the ungodly. But who are these ungodly sinners who are scornful? These are they who have no regard for the things of God. They reject God. They reject His laws. They do their own thing. They've got no regard for what is sacred. But there's a contrast here. On the other side, there are those who would be described as blessed. Those who would be described as delighting in the law of the Lord. And those who meditate in His law. So, these are the two groups that we want to look at. And these ones who are regarded as blessed. These ones who are regarded as delighting in the law of God and meditating in His law. These are the people of God. This is a group whom me and you, we belong to. A group of those who love God. Those who fear God. Those who serve God. Those whose life commitment is to follow Jesus Christ. And here we have these two groups. On the one side, they are regarded as scornful. They reject God. They even reject the very existence of a creator. They even reject His creativity, that He put everything together to work for the good. But on the other side is us, those who are blessed. Not because we have everything that our hearts desire. Blessed because we walk with Jesus. Blessed because we have come to know and to believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord. That He is the Saviour, the Messiah. It is Him. And that is the very essence of the Gospel, that yes, in some remote part in Palestine, a virgin became pregnant and conceived a baby boy through the Holy Spirit, and gave birth to a boy, a real boy, that lived here on earth. A boy that became a man. And, in whom, wonderful things happened. He taught with such authority. Anointed by God, this was not an ordinary boy. This was God who revealed Himself in flesh. He came here on earth, and that this Man died, not because he was murdered, but rather that He gave up His life so that He could save many. I say there's no greater story than this. I haven't really read many books in my life, I'll admit to that, but I haven't come across such where a hero dies so that villains could live. It doesn't usually end up in this way. But He laid down His life so that we could live. He said it was His life to lay down and His to pick up. And He brought this sacrifice, paid over this ransom so that we could be set free. So that we could live. And not just live feeble lives, but live abundantly. He rose from the dead because He did not die forever. And He gave certain promises, certain assurances to those who were very close to Him as disciples and gave them a mission to continue with His work because the day of the Lord is at hand. And this is the essence of the Gospel. That which we believe in. Those who follow Jesus Christ. These are the essentials of salvation. And if we believe in Jesus Christ, everything else falls into place.
Here, this Psalm is skilfully crafted. There's some element of repetition of a main thought here. And I want to pick apart some operative words here. ‘Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,’ and walks being the operative word here that we have to walk in the light. We have to walk in Jesus. We have to walk in this path of righteousness. We must walk. Yes, times are tough, and sometimes we feel like just stopping because we've had enough. It's too painful. It hurts. And we just want to give up. We have to continue to walk. To walk in the light. Because when we walk in the light in Jesus, there are no chances of us not seeing dangers on our path. There are no chances of falling into snares of the evil one. There are no chances of us departing out of the path. If we remain in the light, we must walk. Keep on walking. We must walk, because those who choose an alternative path of those who are scornful sinners, or even ungodly, they walk in darkness. And the Bible often uses these contrasts. Light and darkness. When we do not walk in the light, then we walk in darkness. Jesus is our light. We walk, using our own sense of direction. We have to get direction from the will of God. This is where our direction comes from. This is our true path: Jesus Christ. We walk in the light. We choose the path of righteousness, even if it's difficult. We always choose righteousness. And sometimes we even have to choose to do things where we'll never get credit for. Always choosing to do what is right, even if nobody sees. But because we know, and we are convinced this is what Jesus would do. This is how Jesus dealt with such matters. We walk in the light. We do what is right.
It says also here, ‘nor stands in the path of sinners.’ What do we stand for? What is it that we stand for? We know that if you don't stand for anything, well, you will fall for anything. And that is often true. What is it that we stand for? Where is it that we stand? We stand on a firm foundation. On the rock, on Jesus. We stand on firm, solid ground. We shall not be moved. Even if the earth were to move. We will not fall, because this rock will not falter. This rock will remain not only today and forevermore, but for time and all eternity. This rock will remain. Jesus Christ. This is what's most important in the Gospel. To remain steadfast. Steadfast in Jesus. Because through Jesus, we get our direction on how to do the will of God. We must stand for something. It doesn't matter which company we are with. We must stand for something. It doesn't matter where we find ourselves, or what could be the occasion. We stand for something, and we are not moved. We've come to know and to believe that Jesus is the Lord. That Jesus is the Saviour. And that is finished. That is our belief. That is what we stand for. Jesus is our Lord. If we are to walk in the path of godliness, of righteousness, we must stand firm on Jesus, the rock. We must anchor our life on this rock, Jesus. There will always be trouble. There will always be things that scare us. Things that even rattle the core of our belief. But if we stand for Jesus, come hell or high waters, we will remain steadfast. We shall not be moved. Because we know that if we stand for Jesus, everything else will fall into place. If we stand for the Gospel, then we will do the will of God at all material times. No matter what the decision at hand should be, we will always choose for Jesus.
‘Nor stands in the path of sinners.’ This is also quite interesting to know that in this ancient time, for you to be considered righteous, is when you avoid sin and those who would be branded as sinners. If you avoid them, then you would do good. But then comes a Man called Jesus. And He was often harshly criticized for this. He did not stand away from them, but rather, He would keep company with those who in scripture were branded as sinners, as people who were not desirable and so forth. But Jesus would go to those people. Jesus would have conversations with those people. Jesus would share meals with such people. That was that understanding. But Jesus changed it in a way that, yes, we must stay far from sin, that remains. But sometimes for you to draw somebody into the light, you have to go to them. And Jesus showed this quite a number of times where He went to these undesired people like the Samaritans. He spent quite some time with them after He had an interaction with this woman that He met at the well of Jacob and they had a conversation. He went to these undesirable people, spent time with them, and delivered the good news. So, it's not always the avoidance, but we have to do this work again by being charismatic in nature and being able to be with people and to share the good news with them. It's not just for us. It's not some exclusive secret knowledge that we have come to know. We have a duty in serving our fellow man by bringing the Gospel to them. Yes, we avoid sin because the Lord loathes and detests sin. But the sinner, He loves. He is madly in love with the sinner, me and you.
He wants to save the sinner, and not punish the sinner. So, while we are here on earth, we must use our influence to bring the Gospel. We stand for the Gospel. I don't believe that because you spend time with somebody, they would be able to get you out of this path. I don't think our faith is that shallow or that weak, that when we deliver this good news to people who believe differently from us, that they may convince you otherwise. Because if that's the case then I was never here. We stand for Jesus. We are anchored on the rock. We must also love the sinners, as Jesus loves us. We must be able to see past these labels and deliver the good news too.
‘Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.’ Be careful where we sit as well. With this, I am thinking of certain companies that we keep for prolonged periods of time. We must realize that to follow Jesus, there must be some things we are willing to give up. And this could also be in the form of certain relationships, certain companies that we have to give up because they add no value, they add no benefit to move us deeply into knowing the true nature of God. Be careful where you keep company. Be careful what your soul is exposed to. Be careful where you sit. Because if you're not careful, you may find yourself being on unsteady ground. We want to sit where the Lord Jesus is. When we are in divine services, we can rest assured that Jesus is here. When we are in the company of the people of God, we can rest assured where two or many gather, Jesus is there. Be careful where we sit, because we want to sit in the company of the Lord. But these two groups, those who are regarded as ungodly sinners and scornful, walking in, what would be the dark, and those who are blessed, delighting in the law, and meditating in His law, there's a result in both these instances. These paths lead to a certain eventuality. If we are to continue on this path, this blessed path, in verse 6 it says, ‘For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.’ That is always a resulting effect. If we are to continue on this walk, being steadfast, we will reach the goal of faith. And we'll hear more about this in next week’s sermon where we speak about the return of Jesus. Looking at that very important aspect of the Gospel. For today, we want to look at aligning, orientating and taking direction from the will of God.
Who are these that delight in the law of the Lord? The law of the Lord, as it would have been understood in this time, is the Torah, the law of God. But who is this Torah? Who can personify this Torah? It's Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the law. Jesus Christ is the One. He is the personification of the will of God. ‘But his delight is in the law of the Lord.’ We delight in Jesus. We delight in Him. He is our joy. He is our everything. And we take delight in Him. The law that He has given us, it sounds rather simple, but not quite. To love God above everything, and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. He says this will guarantee us that we are able to achieve all other precepts of the law. If we had to do these two things, this double law of love. Loving God and loving our fellow man. If we are to do this, and delight in this, it will never be a burden to follow God. It will never be a burden. We will not see the Ten Commandments as prohibitive, but we will see them for what they are, that they teach us how to have a healthy relationship with God, and a healthy relationship with man. They will no longer be something of a heavy noose around our neck, but rather, it will be a delight for us to do the will of God. And as such should be my dear brothers and sisters. We must find delight in the word of God. And to do this, it means that we must enquire. We must enquire scripture. We must get to know Jesus. We must get to know the will of God. And in that, we will have direction. We will not be confused, going in all sorts of directions, being attracted by all sorts of doctrines, all sorts of teachings. We will be steadfast. And that's what we want to be, steadfast in our following. We must delight in the law of the Lord Jesus Christ; it is the personification of the Torah. In Him, His teachings, His Gospel, this is the will of God. If we are to take His Gospel and not just take it for what we hear but apply it in our lives, implement it in our relationships, then you will see much success. Not only will we exist happily here on earth, but we will flourish. Because we are anchored. Because we are like this great big tree that is sitting by the waters of the rivers. And its roots go way down into the waters itself, tapping into the water, and drawing as it wishes, as pleasures. And this is the result of walking in the path of goodness, the path of righteousness. That even if the scorching sun should come and beat on the leaves, even if there would be great winds that blow, we will remain steadfast, because we love the Lord. We delight in the law of the Lord. Jesus is not an extension of who we are, but rather the central core of what we believe in.
And in the very end here, ‘and in His law he meditates day and night.’ Let us go deeply into the knowledge of who Jesus is. Let us also now be aware and mindful that we need to meditate in the ways of the Lord. It is our duty, our Christian duty to come to know our Lord Jesus and to come to delight in His message, in His Gospel message, but also more so to follow Him and meditate day and night, about the promises that He gave us. He will come again, and this is something that we think about day and night, looking forward to it. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle Sipho Mogane