On Sunday 29 August 2021, Apostle Ndodomzi Nene conducted the central AVT divine service at Silvertown congregation. The divine service was conducted in English and translated into South African Sign Language (SASL) at the altar by Beryl Botha.
He was accompanied by Priest Louis Diedericks, 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: The Bridegroom comes (EH: 425)
Bible word: ‘For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)
My dear brothers and sisters, today is a special day where we can have an encounter with our God in His house. And I'm reminded of the words of the prophet Micah, where he says, “And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.” And today, we also have an encounter with our heavenly Father and we will find God. How? In His word, and also in the sacrament. Therefore, it is important for us to fine-tune our hearts and absorb everything that God speaks to us so that we can apply it in our daily lives. The after-text hymn speaks about Lord You have heard. And I can confirm that God heard our prayers, all our prayers. We have different requests and pleas to our God. But God has the ability to answer each and every prayer. And I say let us trust Him. He has heard us. And in due time, He will answer us. And we do not have to be concerned when it will be answered. It will be answered at the right time because God does things in His own way. And He does it in a perfect way. And therefore, we do not have to be concerned.
Today, we received this word, and it is the word of comfort for us as children of God. The Apostle Paul said, ‘For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.’ Paul was in a congregation of Thessalonica. Thessalonica was a very wealthy trade centre because it was a port city. And this city was very busy. But Paul and Silas went to preach there. And they were successful in their preaching because the preaching of Paul was accepted amongst the Jews and the Greeks. They accepted Paul. They accepted the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore they intended to follow Him. Now the Apostle Paul brings the comfort that Jesus Christ died for all. But Jesus is coming to fetch us. And this is the theme of our divine service today: the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. That the Lord will come again and take us home. And we want to wait for His return, so that when the Lord comes, that He may find us all ready. As Paul spoke to Thessalonica, He also encouraged the congregation of God that Jesus did not leave us alone. But He has given us those who care for us, those who look after us, those who prepare us, the Apostles of the Lord, in order to get us ready for the time when Jesus Christ comes. Therefore, it means that we are also called. And we are called to obtain salvation. Here the Apostle Paul used the words ‘to obtain’. Obtaining something means that you work for it. It means that you put in every effort. It means that you strive in order to get it. It's not just a given thing. We must obtain it. I'm just reminded of the children that are writing exams. To obtain a certain symbol, you need to work hard. To obtain a certain symbol, you need to focus on what you are doing. And we are called to obtain salvation. Therefore, it means that we must focus on that which is important for us. What is important is that after obtaining salvation, we also need to retain salvation. It means that we must keep salvation. We must not let it go. We must not lose it. We must hold on to it. Therefore, it means that we make sure and use every ability and also everything that we have so that we can retain this salvation.
The Apostle Paul refers to those who sleep, and those who are awake, which simply means that those who are alive, and those who are dead, those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will obtain salvation. What a beautiful comfort that no one is left out. Those who are alive and even those who are dead must believe in the Lord and the assurances that we must obtain salvation. Let us take this advice even in this difficult time, because we are living in a very difficult time, where it is difficult to focus on what we want to focus on, because there are other things that stand in our way. Here and there maybe it results in us questioning the Lord. We do not want to do so. We want to focus on that which is important – salvation. The District Apostle said the other day salvation is not deliverance. It is totally different. Salvation is that which will bring us into the kingdom of God and therefore, let us make every effort.
Now, here he speaks about the return of the Lord. With the return of the Lord Jesus, there is a promise. Jesus promised His disciples that He will come again. And that we can read out of the book of John 14 where He says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” This is a nice promise, and therefore we need to keep it alive, that Jesus Christ is coming. When, what time, or what day, it is not important. What is important for us is that the Lord is coming, and therefore, let us prepare ourselves. The Apostles of the Lord also saw the ascension of the Lord and heard the two angels that spoke to them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” That also strengthens with what Jesus said, “I will come again.” Let us also be excited about this coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep it alive in our hearts and souls so that when the Lord comes that we are ready to accept Him. The Apostles of today are busy proclaiming the coming of the Lord. They are preparing the bridal congregation so that they can obtain the salvation which the Lord offers. Brothers and sisters, that is also important for us that we do not become too relaxed, but we continue as the Lord Jesus Christ promised we are being prepared. And that gives us the assurance that the Lord Jesus did not leave us alone. The Apostles are proclaiming the gospel of the Lord. What is expected of us is that we continue to do as such. We prepare for our own salvation. That we work on our faith. That we remain strong in waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ. That we do not allow anything to take away our focus from the Lord. Let us focus on this great day because it will bring us the future. And the future is to be with the Lord for time and eternity.
Now, it is important once we know that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming, once we are aware that the Lord Jesus has left us with His Apostles to prepare us. It gives us more joy to anticipate His return. Anticipation means that we are sure that the Lord is coming. We are confident that the Lord will come and take us home. It is not a prediction. It is the assurance that the Lord will come and take His own. And therefore, we want to be excited about this. And how can we keep the excitement? It is also to be diligently and watchful to always be aware of the fact that there is a tempter that can jeopardize our way AND our focus on the coming of the Lord. We need to be aware and be watchful. What did the Lord Jesus Christ say? “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” My dear brothers and sisters, when we are aware and watchful, we will not associate ourselves with the evil one. We do not play around with the evil one. We do not even yield towards the evil one because we are aware that we want to be in the kingdom of God. Let us wait with joy and anticipation for the coming of the Lord. When we anticipate the coming of the Lord, then we focus on that which is important. And what is important is to resolutely follow the Lord Jesus. To remain on our path, and to focus on our goal. And our goal is to be found worthy for the day of the Lord. That is now a form of being anticipant for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will come again. This is not a myth. It is not a story. But it is the truth that the Lord Jesus will come. And when He comes, He will accept us unto Himself.
But whilst we are joyfully anticipating the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to focus on ourselves. What is expected of me and you? What does the Lord expect me and you to do whilst we anticipate the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? He wants us to prepare ourselves. We have a duty and a responsibility to prepare ourselves. How can we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord? First and foremost, we need to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord by remaining faithful. Remember our second and ninth article of faith. We profess that we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe also in the coming of the Lord. And therefore, it gives us more strength and more reason to be faithful unto the Lord. And I thought about a young man, Joseph, who was also living in a very difficult time. And the wife of Potiphar tried to influence him. Joseph remained faithful in that situation. He did not turn around from his God. He did not change. He remained faithful. And therefore, it is important for us, even if the situation presents itself, where we are bombarded by other influences, we remain faithful. Remaining faithful means that we remain firm in our belief. We are steadfast and we do not change. Let us look at the first congregation. They remained steadfast in the breaking of bread, in prayer, and in fellowship. That is how to remain faithful. That is our benchmark. If we remain within these four pillars, the devil will not pull us away from the Lord. We will take a stand. We are the children of God, born out of the Holy Spirit, we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is final for our lives. Secondly, remaining faithful towards the Lord also includes us to be diligent in our serving to the Lord. To be diligent in the way in which we follow the Lord, that is very important. When we do so, then we are also preparing ourselves. And thirdly, that we prepare ourselves through the word and the sacrament. We must be thankful that we can come back to the divine service where we can find the word of God and also participate in the sacrament of the Lord Jesus Christ. That also strengthens us so that we are faithful in the Lord. Where do we find the word? I also mentioned the prophet. We find the word of God in His temple. “And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.” This is where we find God. This is where we also receive the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore, this is part of our preparation. Therefore, let us make every effort to come to Him. Let us make every effort to serve Him in the fellowship of God's people. This is now the way in which we can prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. And lastly, to prepare for the coming of the Lord, it means that we become watchful, we become aware. When we are watchful and we pray, we may not easily fall into temptation, but we will continue, and we will also be aware of the fact that the devil wants to take us away. Jesus Christ is a true example to us. When He was in the wilderness, He was always watchful. When the devil came to try and influence Him by saying, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Jesus did not fall and succumb to the offer of the evil one. But He took a stand and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” And today, we utilize that by coming to the house of the Lord, listening to the divine service. It is our spiritual nourishment that we can become strong in resisting the offer of the evil one. It is important for us to understand that we have a duty to prepare ourselves. We do not leave it to the Priest. We do not leave it to our Rector. We do not leave it to anybody else. We have the capability, and the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit will lead us in all truth and righteousness. This is what the Lord wants us to do. Let us do our part, and God will do His part. Let us prepare ourselves. And when we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord Jesus, surely, we will not miss out. Surely, we will go with Him because whilst He was coming, we did not rest. Whilst we were waiting for Him, we did not turn away from Him. We've stayed with Him, we followed Him, and we remained with Him. Let us continue to profess that our Lord Jesus Christ is our Redeemer and is coming. Let us proclaim it as the Apostles also do. Proclaim the coming of the Lord so that when He comes then He can take us unto Himself. Let us be aware of the fact that Jesus Christ is coming. He promised us that He will come. He will take us home and this makes us look forward to His coming.
The Apostles of the Lord are busy preparing the bridal congregation, and they fashion us so that when the Lord comes that we are ready. And we have the responsibility. And our responsibility is to prepare ourselves. Like we came to the house of the Lord this morning, we had to do a preparation. We did not wake up and then get into a suit and go to church. There was a preparation that took place behind the scenes. In a spiritual sense, we need to get our things ready so that when the time comes that we do not run around in circles, but are ready when the call comes. And therefore, we can also be ready with Him. When Paul spoke to the congregation of Corinth, he reminded them with the word ‘Maranatha’ which simply means that the Lord is coming or ‘O Lord, come!’ We must keep it alive in our hearts and souls. The Lord is coming. The Lord is on His way. The Lord is ready to accept us. Now the question is, are we also ready? May God help us so that we do not become weary and tired of doing so. Let us do it with joy. Let us follow the Lord with joy and let us prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord with great anticipation. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle Ndodomzi Nene