On Sunday 12 September 2021, Apostle Harold Swartbooi conducted the central AVT divine service at Sandton congregation. The 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 Elder Dave Gracey, 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: Lord, my Saviour and my Shepherd (EH: 96)
Bible word: ‘As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.’ (1 Peter 2:2-3)
My dear brothers and sisters, I am mindful of how special these moments are in the Lord’s house. And one day it will be the last divine service. And how do we long that God would give the instruction to His Son to go and fetch the bride. Can you imagine? I often think about this. How it would be. That first divine service in heaven where we will see our God and Father face to face. Our loved ones that had gone before. The heroes of faith which we can read about in the book of Hebrews. And dear brothers and sisters, we will just simply be together, and we will not part again. Like you, I'm looking forward to that day. And I wish it was now that the Lord can come. That His work can come to a completion. But whilst we still have the opportunity, let us utilise it. The Lord is granting us grace. I'm reminded of what happened some years ago. It was in the early hours of the morning. And then the Priest came, and he knocked on my door. It was still dark. And he said to me, “I just want to say thank you for what you have done for my daughter.” This happened on a Thursday morning. And I thought, but this is strange. Last night, after the Wednesday evening service, I still greeted the daughter. Those days we could still greet. And I said, “But why? What I did was just something simple.” And he said to me, “She passed on during the early hours of this morning.” I didn't know I greeted my sister for the last time. I didn't know that. We don't know. This is our hope. This is our joy. The organist might play the last anthem. The brothers recording this divine service might be doing it for the last time. The one sitting to your left or to your right, it might be the last time that we see each other here. Whilst we have the opportunity, utilize it. The Lord loves us, and He wants us to be with Him. That is His greatest desire. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Jesus came and He died for us. Then He sent the Holy Spirit that would lead and guide us into all truth and righteousness. Today we have the opportunity to experience the love of the Father, and the word that will be revealed through His Spirit. Brothers and sisters, again, allow me to say this, utilize this opportunity.
We have this word where the Apostle Peter spoke and wrote to this congregation. And he addressed a particular situation. And it says in 1 Peter 2:1, ‘Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking,’. I don't know whether these were the challenges that they were facing. But certainly, he wouldn't say something if there wasn't a reason to do so. And then he said, leave those things, and focus on the following, as he says in the second verse, ‘As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word,’. Brothers and sisters, this is what this word is about. The message for you and I today is that we desire after the word of God. Some Bibles say that you crave for the word of God. Others say that you have an appetite for the word of God. And it carries on saying, ‘that you might grow thereby.’ Beloved, he reminded them. He says, ‘As newborn babes,’. So, they were still young in the faith. And the life of Christ was placed within you. It's your obligation, it's your duty to make sure that that life is nourished, that it grows within you. So, you have malice, envy, hypocrisy and you have evil. And then on the other side, this life of Christ, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit. And I'm reminded of a legend. And I'm sure maybe you've heard this legend where this little boy was with his grandfather. And he asked his grandfather, “What is life? What's it like? And he said to him, “Life is like two wolves inside of all of us. And they are constantly fighting. The one is the good wolf and the other one is the bad wolf.” Then the boy asked, “Which one is the strongest?” And the grandfather said, “It's the one that you feed the most. That's the strongest one.” Here the Apostle advises. He says to this congregation, ‟As newborn babes desire the pure milk of the word,”. That's the word of God. Desire that. Nourish this new life within you. Come and experience that word that the Lord gives to us so that this life of Christ may grow within us.
And everything that is alive is threatened. All life is threatened. Even the word of God, there are threats to it. In preparation, you can go and read this in Genesis 3:1 where Satan comes to Eve. Just see what he does. He said, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” Casting that doubt. God told Adam, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” And then the second thing that Satan said to Eve is that you will not die. He is putting untruths out there as truth. And sadly, they succumbed to it. They listened to it. And we know what the consequences were. And then if you can fast forward this thought of the untruths that are placed next to the truth. And how it is sometimes believed and accepted. I read in Matthew 28; you can read from verse 11. This is after Jesus was crucified. And then He was buried. And then He rose from the dead and His body was no longer in the grave. It wasn't there anymore. So, the guards went to the authorities to tell them that this Man is no longer in the grave. In other words, what He said, it's true. And the authorities gave the guards a large sum of money. I'm sure this doesn't sound unfamiliar. They gave the guards a large sum of money and said to them, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.” And they went out and spread this untruth as the truth. And it says, go and read it in Matthew 28, ‘…and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.’
Let's come into our time. How the untruth is placed next to the truth. And sometimes, as human beings, we are so gullible. We accept the untruth. Our Chief Apostle speaks about nonsensical theories that have been offered as the truth. Sometimes we even spread that untruth. Sometimes we absorb it. Nonsensical theories that have been spread and bandied around. Our Chief Apostle says, let’s take the test. In Scripture, it says, ‘Try the spirits.’ Test them and see whether they are of God. When we hear these nonsensical theories. Or when we read about it. Brothers and sisters, the test for that is, will this, what is being said here, or what I hear today, will it lead me to God, or will it separate me from God? Therefore, the message, I read this again, where it says, ‘…desire the pure milk of the word.’ God's word, the pure word, will always lead us to Him, not away from Him. Remember that hymn, Let your hearts be ever joyful. I'm reminded of the last verse. ‘Darkness soon will gather around us if we turn away from Him.’ Jesus came and He said, “…and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” Then He gave the instruction to the Apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In scripture, we read in high priestly prayer, where Jesus said, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;”. This is the pure milk. It does not mean that everything that we say as ministers is divine truth. No, not at all. But we will receive everything that we need for our salvation out of the apostolate of Jesus Christ. So, what should I do? Drink the pure milk. That's the nourishment. That's the word you and I need to be formed into the image of the almighty God. Remember this test, for all the things that we hear, did God say? Is this what He meant? I'll offer you money to spread this untruth. We hear these nonsensical theories. And then the test is, does it lead me to God? Or does it separate me from God? The Apostle Paul in his time said in Romans 8:38-39, ‘For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ There are so many thoughts created. So many theories that are created. He said, “…shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us stay close to Him. Let’s test these spirits and see whether they want to lead us away from the Lord, or lead us closer to the Lord. I don't want to be disconnected from my Father. Once I'm cut off, I will be in darkness. I want to go with when the Lord comes. I want to be accepted on His day.
So why do we need to word of the Lord? The Lord wants to save all people. Why does the Lord give His word to us? So that we have direction. We should know exactly where we are going to. The word of the Lord leads us directly into His kingdom. And for that reason, I need to accept it. I can't dilute the milk. Sometimes people flavour the milk. I can recall this when I was much younger. I love flavoured milk, naturally speaking. But you can’t do it in the Spirit. You can't adapt the Lord's word to suit you, or to suit your circumstances. The District Apostle recently said in a divine service that when you have the Ten Commandments, there is no multiple choice. I like this one, ‘You shall love God above everything,’ But I don't like this that you should love your neighbour. ‘Thou shalt not steal’, but then I put a rider to it. Or ‘Thou shall not kill’, but I put a rider to it. Under these circumstances, I'm allowed to do so. No, it's clear cut, brothers and sisters. You can't dilute the word. You can't flavour the milk to satisfy your taste. This is what the Lord says. This is how it will be. You can't change it. And this word we receive, the Spirit-inspired word, that's what the Lord says. That nourishes the soul. I'm giving you these words so that it can comfort you. The Lord 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.” That's the comfort. We are going to that place that He had gone to prepare for us. We spoke about it earlier on. And how will it be? Let us see to it that when I hear the word of God, that it strengthens my faith. When I hear the word of God, it makes me strong. I need this word so that I can grow up in Christ. That I am strong in Christ. Remember this hymn that we sing, Stand up for Jesus. If you're not strong, you won't stand up for Jesus, but you will go lie down for Satan. But when you are strong, this is what the first Christians did. Their faith was tested. They were given the choice, you can live, or you can die. But if you want to live, you must deny this God that you are serving. What did they say? You can kill me. That's okay. But I believe in this God. And this is the time in which we are living, to stand up for Christ. I am standing on His word. The Lord said and this is what I believe. The Lord said I should love my neighbour. He said so and not under certain conditions. I don't dilute this. I love my neighbour. There are so many ways in which we can express this love. Recently, when Holy Sealing took place amongst others, I said to the mothers, please be kind to your neighbour who has a baby. Go and tell that neighbour that God has instituted the sacraments to life eternal and your baby can also be baptized. Your child can also be sealed. Your child can also be prepared for eternal life with Him and His Son. Go and tell them that. We've got the opportunity brothers and sisters. The Lord said to Peter, ‘But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’ Now that we hear the word of God, we have an obligation to go and spread this word. The hymn says, ‘I cannot but be speaking, God's word I must declare’. Tell it to others. We all have a story to tell. There are so many things that we hear today. Last week in the congregation of Kenhardt, the District Apostle served the congregation. And he said something that happens to us. People would come and say, did you hear? And normally, now you ready yourself for a juicy story. When people say to you, did you hear? Then you say, yes, I heard the Lord is coming. That's the story you and I should tell. Yes, I heard the Lord is coming. Be kind to your neighbour. Be gracious to them. They need the Lord. And we are in a position. We have been drinking this pure milk, the word of God, undiluted. Share it with others. I wasn't born out of New Apostolic parents. Somebody loved me. Somebody came and shared the doctrine of Christ, this pure milk of Jesus Christ, with us as a family. Brothers and sisters, let us be more kind. Let us place ourselves more in the shoes of others. We were once there. And the Lord picked us up. And as He has been gracious to us, let us be gracious to our fellow brother and sister. This is what we need. We need the Lord's word. He strengthens us, He gives us this pure milk so that we can be strong in Christ. That we can go in the right direction. He gives us this my beloved and we desire this pure milk so that we can lead others to Christ, that we can show them what the Lord has done for us. Lastly, I'm reminded of a sister. Those days, sisters assisted us on a Sunday afternoon when we testified or went door knocking. And there was a particular sister. I knew her very well. And I knew she wasn't well versed in the Scriptures. And I asked her, what do you tell the people? We had such a beautiful, blessed time, we went to many doors, and I wanted to know what she tells the people. She said to me, “It's easy. My story is simply I tell them what the Lord does for me.” Brothers and sisters, go and do that. Go and tell others what the Lord is doing for you. Give them of this pure milk. Give them of this undiluted milk. They also desire to be accepted when the Lord comes.
Therefore, if I can summarize this divine service. The word is given to us. Desire the pure milk. The pure milk is the pure word of God, as it is being proclaimed, as we receive the Spirit-inspired word, desire after that word. Apply it diligently in your life. Live accordingly, so that the image of Christ can grow within us. And when others see what's happening to us, when others see this change in our lives that we come closer to the image of God, then certainly brothers and sisters, they would also desire to experience that which the Lord has given to us. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle Harold Swartbooi