On 02 May, District Apostle J Kriel conducted the central AVT Sunday divine service in Gezina congregation, Pretoria. The divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language (SASL) by Natasha Parkins-Maliko.
He was accompanied by District Apostle Helper MP Mkhwanazi, Apostles J Joubert and A Page, along with Bishop V Rudolph and the local ministers from the congregation. 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: Praise thou the Lord, O my soul (EH: 59)
Bible word: ‘Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die,’. (Revelation 3:2a)
District Apostle Kriel:
My dear brothers and sisters, I hope you could experience the beauty of the music that was sung to us now, and the message that it brings: The Lord is good. And I want to underline that. In fact, I remember when I was in the youth, and together we spoke about the goodness of God. And I had a friend that said look, the Lord is good but, you know, the devil is not too bad. He would say that sometimes, but we want to ignore that for the moment and know that the Lord indeed is good. And we don't want to forget that. And it's important that we speak about it because often, one forgets the goodness of some people, the kindness of people, and you only remember the last bad or unkind deed that was done, and you forget all the kindness. We don't ever want to forget the goodness of our God. We are passing through a time that we wish we didn't have to. But let's not forget this powerful message. The Lord is good. Speak about it, share it so that others know, that our children know the Lord is good. It is worthwhile to stay by Him because He is good. And He will bless us. When the disciples just experienced the miracle of the loaves with Jesus, when Jesus fed 5000 with a few loaves and fish, and then they were on the lake and then the storm came up - and then immediately they feared, and Jesus was with them. They forgot. They just experienced that miracle. And dear brothers and sisters, in our circumstances, in our hardships in our pain, let’s not forget, the Lord is good. And He has thoughts of peace towards us. He wants to bless us. He wants to care for us. And He wants to give us His kingdom.
We have a Bible word today taken out of the book of Revelation. And for all of us that know the Bible well, know it's the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation and here, John was told to write down the message to the seven churches. And today we look at the message that was written to the congregation of Sardis in Asia Minor. That was their message, ‘Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain’. Sardis was the capital city of the kingdom of Lydia where the kings had all their courts and palaces in all its grandeur. It was a flourishing and rich city; many rich people were there. In that time, they had wool, they had fruit, and they even had gold and silver. In fact, they were the first place to mint gold coins. So, for all of us who thought the Kruger Rand is unique, I've got bad news, it isn't. Already in Sardis, they printed gold coins. And they were all wealthy, good people, and happy people, rich people that lived there. And the scholars, some say that it was the Apostle John who preached to the city, and they became Christians, followers of Christ. But Sardis, unfortunately, the city didn't remain Sardis. Today, Sardis is called Sart. And today, it is desolate. Today, there are a few wretched cottages. Today, they are all in ruins; they suffered many earthquakes. So, the gold and the silver and all that which was precious did not last. Today, it is desolate. Today, there are no Christians. So, that is just to paint the picture. But there was also a congregation. And then, the congregation got a wake-up call because there was a congregation, and there were few that were faithful, but many more that were just a congregation in name – they were just there. On the surface, everything seemed okay, but it wasn't really okay. Because they had a sort of faith, a sort of godliness, but not for real. There were only a few that were indeed faithful, and some, can I say this, were just veneered Christians because Christianity takes work.
To be a follower of Christ is not an easy task; you have to do something. And many just went through the motions just to be seen. And maybe we want to relate that to us today, that this word, gave them a little bit of a wake-up call, you know, the last portion of the first verse says, ‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead’. That’s not so nice to tell somebody. But here is the Spirit that says I know your works. And when somebody says I know your work, it doesn't mean they've read your CV, because on your CV you put all nice things, isn't it? And not too long ago, we heard of people that put stuff on their CV that's not even true. And they had to suffer the consequences of that. I think I remember helping my daughter one day with her CV. And she says, but dad, I worked there too. I asked her where did you work? I said I don't remember. And she said that she was there for half a day. So, it's not a lie. That's a fact. That's a fact, but the CV you draw up and you make it look all good, but the Lord says to this congregation, I know your works. I know you. And when He knows us, He knows our hearts, and dear brothers and sisters, the message to all of us, come, let us look and see where do I fit in. When I remove the veneer, is the Christian still there? When things become tough, is what is seen on the outside still on the inside? This genuine love and following of Christ. Is it still there? And this word is not intended to make us feel bad, but it's a wake-up call. It's a situation to say let's see what reality really is. Somebody said once, you know this guy, he says yes, I know that chap. He says he died when he was 45, but they buried him when he was 72. What did that mean? At 45, he already gave up and there was nothing. Somehow, he just went through the motions until he was 72. We live in Christ; He is our future. Christ is our future. And we want to make sure, and we want to accept this as a wake-up call to all of us. We are the congregation. What they focused on in Sardis did not last. Sardis became Sart. A great, flourishing city to a place of ruins and desolation. My house of faith cannot become that.
And now, the advice is given, ‘be watchful’, so we need to watch, and here, not each other, watch yourself, watch and see in my own life. ‘Strengthen the things which remain’, and here already there is separation, there are things that remain, and things that do not remain. And how much focus do I put on the things that do not remain? Things that just pass us by and it's just necessary for a period. We've just come through Confirmation. And here and there, we have big debates, what do we wear for Confirmation? What is the dress code? And so on and so on. Does that remain? No. The vow remains. My promise to God does. So come, let's strengthen the things that remain. And we need to categorize our life and our actions. How much time do I spend on the things that remain? How much do I talk about the things that remain? We need to make time for the things that remain. If you look at today, we are so busy. And I don't know, I'm not an expert on social media, we are so busy with so many things. How much of it remains? Isn't it important to build relationships that remain rather than just having big parties and it just blows over and we have a good time and a headache tomorrow? Shouldn't we be working on relationships rather? How easy is it to give your child things that will break in a day or twos time? Isn’t it better to have a lasting relationship with your child, and with families and friends? Focus on what remains. When I read the Bible word, I was reminded of one of my Sunday School teachers who couldn't speak English all that well. And he used to say to us, dear children, and he was very emphatic about it, he said dear children, you must read the Bible, from Genesis to generations. Okay. He got it wrong, you know, generations have got another meaning to us; he meant Revelation. But the point is, if only I had taken his advice, then I would have been better off today, to read the Bible more, to avail myself to God's word in the Bible, and in God's house more, because what did He say? He says, ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word will remain’. Should we not be focusing on that which remains? The Word of God, which is important, which touches all our lives. So, let's focus on the important things, the things that do remain. Because we often get it wrong. We often get confused. So, we want to ensure that we read the Bible. We want to ensure that we build our faith. What did Jesus say, ‘When I come, shall I find faith’? Our faith needs to remain. Should we not be spending a bit more time on it? Maybe I give a little task for all of us - children to adults. Let’s read the Bible for at least five minutes a day. I trust you'll be able to find that time because it will remain. It's important that we focus on our spirituality, on our future, that we do that, that we read the Bible, that we access God's word. That we go home, read the text word again, internalize the divine services that we receive, the word that is given to us. Work on our joy. And when you work on your joy, take away the things that make you unhappy, that is not important. Maybe I ask the question, what are we going to talk about at the braai this afternoon? We talk about our life, we talk about the church, we talk about the divine service. What do we talk about? And maybe, in each social gathering, appoint a social referee to decide what will remain and what will not remain, as we say that won't remain so, let's not waste time on it. Let's focus on what will remain. And the word, that becomes important for us. In this time of COVID, we found out so many things that were important to us, were no longer important. What you wore to work was an important thing, you spent an hour or two on it. Now you work in your pyjamas all day. And you wore the same clothes. Remember, it didn't matter. It didn't matter because what does it say to you? You dress because other people must see you look nice and so on. Okay, please do look nice, but what focus do we put?
And here, this period taught that there are certain issues that are not as important as we make them out to be. And we need to re-evaluate our life, our faith. What is, and what will remain? So, we have these two categories. What will remain? And come, let's help each other in the things that will remain so that they don't die. When you speak about the goodness of God, speak about it to our children, because often you experience the goodness of God when you are in circumstances, and often they are born into that which is a bit more pleasant and a little bit more affluent. And when you're more affluent, you don't seem to need God so much. Remember Sardis? That it does not become a Sart in our life, but that it remains there, and that we take this careful nudge. Let’s be watchful. Let's strengthen the things that remain. And maybe it's time for each one of us to take stock and see what do I need to do, and how can we help each other? In the circle of the Apostles and Bishops, we speak about how do we help each other to achieve, so that we focus on the things that are important? And we want to be a church that's member-focused. Let's focus on the needs of each and every member. What do they need? Here and there we make rules and say everyone must have a soul-care visit three times a year, but maybe one only needs it once, and another needs it six times – a pastoral intervention. We want to do that so that we can help each other to strengthen the things that remain. As you can see, we are trying our best to develop certain things to ensure that we are able to understand the Bible better, to teach our ministers and to teach each one of us. Come, let's read the Bible, and let's understand the Bible. Let's understand our faith - for the love of God and the love of our church. I was so happy to be part of a meeting of the young people in the KwaZulu Natal area. On Friday night, they got together, and over a period they were busy with the Creed and now they wanted to round it off because it's their faith and they want to know more about it. Let’s become inquisitive of our faith and of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we want to help and be able to do that, to create a situation whereby we are able to understand more in that which we do. And by the same token, that we love our God more in all aspects of His teaching. And the more we know God, the more we will know Jesus. The more we know about our faith and our church, the more we will love it. And dear brothers and sisters, that's what we want to do. We want to invite all with your gifts and talents, come, help. Make use of the resources that you have, the knowledge that you have acquired, the qualifications that you have, the church needs you so that we can keep alive the things that are ready to die, the things that will remain. That does not necessarily mean pastoral intervention, it means so many things. Help, and we can do that. Come.
The message for all of us. Let's strengthen the things which are ready to die that the stream of blessing that started in our generation does not dry in the next. That we also go, and we teach our young people, our youth what is relevant; how do they stay, how do they remain by that which is important? Dear brothers and sisters, come, let's strengthen the things which are about to die. We cannot afford that. We've gone through and have achieved so much. Don't lose it. And we want to ensure that we remain on this track. And so, the message for us, come together, determine the things that remain. Leave that which is of no consequence, that which will benefit us for a day or two. Focus on that which remains and strengthen it. Feel it, like our faith, our love for God, that will be forever. Work on that love. You have been blessed so that you can be a blessing to others that we strengthen. Like the first Christians, remain steadfast in the Apostle doctrine, the breaking of bread, prayer and fellowship. We want to remain in that, we want to strengthen it, so that we are able to achieve what the Lord God has intended for all of us. Amen.
Thoughts from District Apostle John Kriel