On Sunday 8 November 2020, Apostle Jacques Cronjé conducted the morning divine service at Dellville Park congregation. This divine service was conducted in English.
He was accompanied by District Elder Julian Paulse, the local ministers from the Dellville Park congregation, 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 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: The love of God (EH:396)
Bible word: ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:34-35)
My dear brothers and sisters, I bid you a hearty welcome to this morning’s divine service. May we all experience a blessed encounter with our Lord and also divine fellowship.
Allow me to reflect on the service of last Sunday as a starting point. Last Sunday, the word was about Jesus Christ not merely being a Prophet but being the Son of God; being God that took on flesh. And Jesus brought God to us, He revealed God to us as this God of love. Not a God who wants to punish, but a God who wants to save all mankind. And then we have been encouraged to trust the love of Jesus and to trust His gospel. And we were also encouraged to follow Jesus and His example. Today, we will once again focus on the love of Christ, we will focus on His example of love. We will focus on the nature of His love; elements thereof and how the love of Christ ought to define and determine our attitude and our behaviour. I am also reminded of a word a few months ago, based on Matthew 7:12, where the content basically encourages us to treat our fellow man the way we want to be treated. And it says that is the "Law and the Prophets." And this is a golden rule, but this golden rule is not exclusive to the Christian faith. It is a golden rule which is applied by many communities, many individuals, even those who do not believe in Christ or a God. However, Christ gave this rule a spiritual dimension when He gave us the commandment of love and the rule to love God above all and your neighbour as yourself. And then He established a connection between your love for God and the love for your neighbour. He said: “How can you say you love God whom you haven’t seen, but hate your neighbour?” So, it is clear to us that if you love God you will love each other.
Today, however, the Bible word which I have read to you adds another dimension to this rule. Allow me to read it again: ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you’. And this is our core message for today. Let us love and treat each other as Jesus Christ loves us. To be able to love in the mind of Christ, we have to understand His love and get some insight into His love, and we will focus on a few characteristics of His love.
The first characteristic of the love of Christ and of God is - His love is unconditional. If you consider human love, it is totally different. Often, love develops because of interaction with one another and what you experience with the other individual. Their beautiful character; their kindness. Here and there, love is prompted by physical appearance – natural beauty. And then, love is also prompted by affiliation. You know, we sometimes have family members that are difficult characters, but we still love them because they are related. That is human love – blood is thicker than water. With the love of Christ, there is no love because of the one or the other attribute or behaviour. Christ loves us because He is love. And this was clearly displayed by Him when He walked on this earth. We think of how He reached out to Zacchaeus. The behaviour of Zacchaeus was unacceptable. Zacchaeus abused his power to the detriment of others; he was corrupt. But Christ reached out to Zacchaeus – that is unconditional love. And it brought about a major change in the life of Zacchaeus. But Jesus was criticised by the people with many saying that He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners. But that is the love of Christ – unconditional. Let us consider the woman who was brought to Christ and accused of adultery. Out of love, He saved her – it was not on account of her behaviour or her inner beauty. He saved her because He is the Saviour; He is love. What does this mean for us today, dear brother and sisters? We are encouraged to live by the principle of love and kindness towards our fellow man. Love, kindness, care ought to be the core values of our existence. It ought to be our disposition in principle.
Now when I was busy with some translation for the Sunday School, I came across a short story which I would love to share with our children today. Dear children, this story is about a young boy by the name of Benjamin. And I assume that he and his family were newcomers into the neighbourhood. And in this neighbourhood, there was a green area between the houses where the children often played soccer together. And now, Benjamin, he saw how they played soccer and had this great desire to play with them. He often watched from a distance and stood on the side, but they never invited him to come and play with them, perhaps because he was a stranger. But that was not the main reason. The reason why they excluded him and didn’t invite him to play with them, was because of his appearance – he had curly red hair and he had freckles. And then something happened. As they were playing, they kicked the ball onto the balcony of a grumpy old man – Mr Glazer. And no one was willing to go and fetch this ball because they were so scared of him – he often scolded them because he didn’t like them playing soccer. And then something happened. Benjamin offered to go and fetch the ball. And he went to knock on Mr Glazer’s door and asked for the ball. And when they saw this, they were so impressed by the courage that he displayed and they had a discussion and decided that from then on, he can be part of them – he can also play with them. So, the story had quite a nice ending. But dear children, that was not the ideal situation. That is not what Jesus would have wanted. Jesus would have wanted Benjamin to be included and invited from the start and not exclude him because of his physical appearance. Remember dear children, God has created us all to be different. And when He created the universe, the earth, all the living creatures and mankind, He said that it was good – He was happy. And we also know that Jesus loves all children. And the moral of the story is that if we want to make Jesus happy, we have to be kind to all and not exclude anyone on account of their appearance or where they come from. So, this is our message for the children today. At school, in your neighbourhood, be kind to all, especially be kind to those who are rejected by others. Some children are introverts, shy, pushed aside. Let us make Jesus happy and embrace all. Be kind to all. That is the moral of the story for us today.
Dear brothers and sisters, the love of Jesus has no prejudice. It was clear that Jesus reached out to all – the rich, the poor, the healthy, the sick, those that were handicapped, the rejected. As I said, he was criticised for being a friend of tax collectors and so-called sinners. Jesus even ignored tradition and culture. He reached out to the Samaritan woman at the well. This was totally unacceptable to the Jews. He reached out to the centurion – that was Jesus Christ. He also shared in people’s sorrow and joy. That was Jesus Christ. Let us also embrace others and love without prejudice – that is the love of Jesus Christ. Not on account of their origin or where they come from, their status or how they look. Especially, reach out and embrace those who are rejected by society. Do not avoid those who are unhappy. Let us share in their sorrows and unhappiness; share in their joys. We often avoid people who complain and are unhappy; we avoid them as if they have a contagious disease – that is not the love of Christ. The love of Christ shares in joy; it shares in sorrow.
Then, another characteristic. You know, dear brothers and sisters, it is human nature that when somebody causes you harm and you are terribly hurt, and you perhaps experienced loss that can never be recovered – it is human nature for us to want them to also experience the same pain. To understand what they put me through, they must feel what I feel. That is not the love of Christ. He hung on the cross and He reached out to His enemies: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” That is the love of Christ. And you know, when the gospel is about love and grace towards us, it is easy to accept the gospel. But if you go read Matthew 5:44, that is the gospel, and you will see that Christ does not compromise. There it is clearly stated that we ought to love our enemies. Do not curse them but bless them and pray for them. This is not so easy, that we understand. But that is the love of Christ – that we love our enemies. Dear brothers and sisters, Christ does not expect us to invite them into our circle of friends and to socialise with them. That is not what He expects. But we should get to a point where, through love, we can forgive them, and get to a point where we can pray for them and desire for them salvation too. That is loving your enemy. Dear brothers and sisters, we know the love of Christ is not easy because His love is perfect. Our love is not perfect. However, it might be a little bit easier, and this is the advice given today, that we do not perceive them to be evil, that we rather see them and perceive them to be victims of evil. If we can see them as victims of evil, it will be easier for us to get to a point where we can actually forgive, start praying for them and also our desire for them is to experience salvation.
And then, the last characteristic or dimension which I would love to share with you, is that Christ really loved His disciples, his followers. And it was precious to Him to have fellowship with them. He wanted to pray with them, spend time with them, eat with them. If we truly love one another as Christ loves us, this will manifest in our desire and our need to have fellowship with one another. It will be precious for us to be together in the house of the Lord. It will be precious to us to have fellowship together, to have fellowship with Christ together to share in His merit and sacrifice. It will be so precious to us. So, dear brothers and sisters, despite our circumstances today, let us come back to church. Let us also seek fellowship with one another because we love each other. We know we have to keep our distance, but it is still so precious for us to be together in God’s house and know that I have family and I belong. And that is also the love of Christ, and we are encouraged to remain steadfast in this fellowship.
Allow me to summarise. Our core message is once again to love and treat each other as Christ loves us. And the love of Christ is unconditional. Let us then live by the principles of love, care and kindness – let that be a core value of our existence. The love of Christ has no prejudice – it has no prejudice. Let us also embrace and reach out without prejudice, irrespective of origin and status. Let us reach out to all. Let us especially embrace those who are marginalised, rejected, those that are slightly different. And then, let us get to a point where we mature in love to the extent that we can actually forgive our enemies. To a state where we can pray for our enemies. That we can also desire for them salvation. And lastly, if we truly love one another as we are taught in this morning’s hour, we will seek fellowship and often be together. We will praise, worship and pray together. It will be so precious for us to share in Christ together. The reality is that as I mentioned, the love of Christ is perfect, and our love is not perfect, and we have a battle with ourselves. To live according to these principles of His love is not always easy, but if we truly aspire to follow His example of love, if we truly aspire to love as Christ loves, this love will develop, we will become richer in love, and then assuredly, when Christ comes, He will then accept us in love and grace. And then, we will most certainly share in perfection. Amen.