On Sunday 24 April 2022, District Elder Joseph Lee conducted the central AVT divine service at Retreat East congregation. The divine service was conducted in English.
He was accompanied by Shepherd Paul Otto, 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. For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: Christ living in me (EH: 77)
Bible word: ‘But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;’. (1 Peter 3:15)
District Elder Lee:
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Also, our dear friends who connect with us via the social media platforms, here in the church as well, I welcome you to the house of God today. Today we have come as a special congregation, and we want to experience the word of God. Because the word of God is what we need to become worthy for the day of the Lord when He makes His appearance. So, we've come to hear the word of God. Man shall not live by bread alone. And then second to that, we've come to receive the Lord's blessing in our lives. What will we be without the Lord's blessing? And we also come to experience forgiveness of sins. Who does not need that? We need forgiveness of sins. And then we also come today to celebrate Holy Communion. We want to eat the meal of the Lord. It's tasty. What does the word say? How sweet are Thy words? Sweeter than honey to my taste. And that is why we came.
I want to place this morning’s divine service under a banner, and we want to say Christ, the Lord of our lives. Christ is the Lord of our lives. And at the commencement of the service, I give you the message which is very important because we must take it home with us. The message we must go and apply. We align our lives with Jesus Christ. That's in relation to our Bible word which I read to you. Looking at this Bible word which we received out the first book of Peter chapter three, we accept that the Apostle Peter wrote this book. He wrote to the congregation in Asia Minor where He encouraged them, the Christians of that time. And we know that the Christians of that time in Asia Minor, didn't have it so well. It didn't go well with them. That’s a little bit of background of them. If you really want a complete explanation of this Bible word and what lies behind it, then I invite you, please watch the video clip of Behind the Word. Because the theologian will explain to you and me the detail of this. We can't do that in the divine service, but it's there for you to watch at your leisure to give you a better understanding. But suffice to say is that the Christians of that time, our brothers and sisters, didn't have it well, because, according to the theologian, those who followed the Apostles, they were verbally abused. They suffered hostilities and repression in that time. And yes, they followed the Apostles, and then the Apostle had to write to them to encourage them because they were even threatened. And we will read one or two extracts from this book out of chapter three where the Apostle writes to them, out of the 13th verse: “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?” Who is he that will harm you? What is good? We follow Christ. They followed Christ and people threatened them. In the 14th verse it says, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’” Therefore, today we also want to learn from their experience. Because what happened then can sometimes also happen now. We also experience it here and there, and we need encouragement as well, as they did. We can learn from them. And in the 16th verse it says, “...having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” The Apostle says to them, even if they revile you, even if they say that you are evildoers, even if they swear at you, you remain faithful. And then our Bible word in verse 15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” But he says then don't do it with boasting and with high mindedness. He says, “…with meekness and fear.” That's how you should give a defence and that is what we will discuss as we align our lives with Jesus Christ, our message for this divine service.
Looking at Christian’s suffering, trials and challenges. Do we not suffer trials, challenges and temptations at times? Of course. No one is exempted from that. We all have to go through it. We all experience it. And today we are encouraged that we must defend our faith. When anyone comes and asks us why do you have hope in Jesus Christ? As the Bible says, one of the previous translations says sanctify the Lord Jesus in your hearts. But this translation says sanctify the Lord God. But it's the same because the Lord Jesus is one with the Father. And therefore, we must sanctify the Lord in our hearts. And how do we do this? We face challenges sometimes. Challenges of ill health. Challenges of unemployment. Challenges of those who do not accept us. Challenges of those who speak ill about us. So many things. We don't have to mention them. The Lord knows them. The Lord knows everything because God is omnipotent and is omniscient and is omnipresent. So sometimes we want to also make long prayers and tell the Lord everything that is wrong with us, that we are suffering. But the Lord knows what we need even before we ask Him. Sometimes when we don't know what to pray to the Lord, the Holy Spirit does intercessions for us with moaning and groaning which cannot even be shared with one another. But the Holy Spirit prays for us if we can't pray. And it says Jesus, sitting at the right hand of the Father, He does intercessions for us as well. He's like an advocate at the throne of God. He does intercessions for you and me. So let us be assured of many prayers going up for us. And the Apostle Peter gives the congregation good advice. He says the following about practical things that you and I can do, how we can act during trials and challenges as Christians. In first Peter 5:5, he writes to the congregation the following, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” So, when we have challenges, when we have trials, He says in verse 6, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,”. God will exalt us in due time. So, humility is very important during a time of challenge, and of temptation. In verse 7 it says, “...casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” God cares for us. Jesus cares for us. Therefore, we must cast our burden upon Him. That's very practical. It's not just a theory. It's not something out there in space. It's something you and I can do as Christians today. We must cast our burdens upon the Lord. Then we go further in verse 8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Does he not sometimes come to you and me, seeking to devour us? Seeking to bring unrest in our souls? Yes, he does. He walks like a roaring lion. The imagery is used as a roaring lion. But he wants to devour. So, the Lord through His servant says here in verse 9, “Resist him...”. It is practical, something we can do. Practical, resisting. And then the encouragement for all of us, as He says in verse 9, “...steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” Stay steadfast. The first Christians remained steadfast in the Apostle’s doctrine, the breaking of bread, the fellowship and in prayers. So, can we not do the same today when we suffer? Christians also suffer today. But the Lord equips us with how to deal with the suffering so that we can remain faithful.
So, we carry on with aligning our minds with Jesus Christ. Remember, once again, I want to restate, we align our lives with Jesus Christ. That's why we have come today to learn how we align our lives with Jesus. He is the example. He is the standard. We can’t say to Jesus, can’t you bring the standard down for me? I can't reach up there. Can't you maybe just bring it down a little bit for me? No. We must go up. The other day we had a divine service where the word was, don't talk about the things of the earth. Talk about the things from above. Not carnally minded but spiritually minded. It’s important that we become more and more aligned with our bridegroom Jesus Christ, that we start thinking and acting like Him. Because He says here, we will learn that you can't profess Christ and then do something else. There's no alignment. So, we align our lives with Jesus Christ. In first Peter 3:8 it says, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;”. The Apostle says to the congregation, be courteous, be tender-hearted. Jesus Christ was tender-hearted. Jesus Christ had compassion. Why is it that we say, I am a child of God, I'm a child of a King, but I have no compassion? There's a gap there which we must close. And today's word is all about aligning. I must measure. Do I have compassion for my brother or my sister? In the book of Philippians 2:5, it says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,”. In verse 3 it says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit...” In the work of the Lord, there is no time or place for ambition. Everything is grace. We serve by grace and Christ had no ambition. He was just one with the Father. And if we say we align with Jesus Christ, then we must become like Him, and we must really not just talk about it. We must do it. In verse 4 it says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” That's what Christ did. As an example, He looked out for others. He always helped others. In verse 5 it says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,”. The mind of Christ. We orientate to it. We align with it. That is the standard. Christ is the standard. And we are in this Eastertide. We cannot forget a few days ago Christ rose from the dead. We are still in that Eastertide. We cannot forget that a few days before that, Christ suffered on the cross and He paid with His life. We cannot forget that. We cannot even forget that He went into Jerusalem where He cleansed the temple. We can't forget that. We are still in that Eastertide. Let us align with Jesus Christ. That is what is required of us. Today as Christians, as followers of Christ, there are so many challenges, and we need to align our minds. You can even align your senses. Our senses can align with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, feeling, touching. We can align that all with Jesus Christ.
And now I'd like to move on and in line with this word also, let me read the Bible word again, ‟But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”. So, we defend our faith. Whoever wants to hear, whoever wants to ask us why do you believe in Jesus? We say but the Lord Jesus will return. He has gone to prepare a place for us. That is a defence. That's what we tell them. Or we can say come and see for yourself. Christians accepting the law of Christ. The law of Christ is nothing else than the law of love. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” This law of Christ is the law of love. We love God yes, but we must love our neighbour as well. We received a wonderful motto from our Chief Apostle, and we want to propagate it all the time. Together in Christ. Yes, we are together in Christ. And if we are together in Christ as a congregation, then we do not turn a blind eye to the sufferings of our brother and sister. And sometimes it's not only about giving money. I would love to help everyone. I just don't have enough resources, unfortunately. And we don't. This very same Apostle Peter came to a man who was also asking for money. And he said to him, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Sometimes when we help it's also to listen. We use our sense of listening. Sometimes when we help, it is to say, I will pray for you. Yes, sometimes it is about giving bread. Yes, that’s also help. And there's so much suffering in our country and in the world today. What can we do? We cannot solve the problems of the world. But we can invite someone or even just listen or just give a word of encouragement. As we go along, as we move and we meet various people, we can give encouragement. That's also helping. Not turning a blind eye or say it is not my business. Jesus gave an example about the Good Samaritan. A very good example, a role model to all of us. It was a parable yes. But it was a parable filled with a powerful message and so much blessing for us. He was prepared to be inconvenienced, to get off from his mode of transport, to go down to help that person in need. Jesus Christ was the leader. He was the Master, but he was prepared to go down and wash the feet of His disciples. That is the mind of Christ. We do not have certain people we want to help. We help all irrespective of who they are or where they find themselves.
I want to summarize this divine service for us. We heard that the caption is Christ the Lord of our lives. And then we heard the message, we align our lives with Jesus Christ. He is the standard for us. We heard that Christians suffer. Yes, they have trials and challenges. Of course, all of us do. But the Lord gave us sound advice that we must remain humble. And we must cast our burdens upon Him. He cares for us. Second to that, we heard that we must align our minds with Jesus Christ. We can even align all our senses with Jesus, to His gospel because it's true. And we must want the mind of Jesus to be in us. And then we have compassion. We have love. We will feel for our neighbour, and not walk the other way. And then lastly, we heard about the law of Christ. Jesus Christ spoke about His yoke. “Take My yoke upon you…” The yoke is normally used to bring bondage and slavery, but the yoke of Christ is easy. And the yoke of Christ brings total freedom, not bondage, and therefore we can help. We use the example of the Good Samaritan so that we can help wherever it's needed. Amen.
Thoughts from District Elder Joseph Lee