A solemn and sacred atmosphere prevailed in the Saxonsea church as the congregation awaited the commencement of the divine service conducted by Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider on Sunday, 04 December 2022.
The Chief Apostle was accompanied by District Apostles John Kriel, Joseph Ekhuya, Kububa Soko, Michael Deppner, Tshitshi Tshisekedi and District Apostle Helpers Mandla Mkhwanazi, Robert Nsamba and Arnold Mhango. All the Apostles and Bishops from Southern Africa were also in attendance.
The choir and orchestra added another dimension with their presentations – festivity! The preparation was made complete when the congregation in Saxonsea and those connected together sang 424 in the English hymnal: The bride has waited, O so long.
For those who missed the divine service, please find a summary of the sermon:
Bible word: “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” (John 1:9)
Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider:
Beloved brothers and sisters here and in all the connected congregations, yes indeed, we have so many reasons to praise and thank our heavenly Father. It's just a great joy to be together today: Together in Christ. I repeat it quite often but it's what lives in my heart. This pandemic period where we couldn't gather together. We couldn't have divine service in the normal way, this taught us what a grace it is just to be allowed and to be able to gather together, to pray together, to sing together, to look into one's eyes. It's just a grace and I'm thankful. I'm thankful that we can have this fellowship of the children of God. Dear brothers and sisters, our heavenly Father is really a Father of love. And we thank Him that we have so many faithful brothers and sisters, and that we can work and walk together towards our goal. I'm thankful to have you dear brother and dear sister.
We live in this time of Advent; as Christianity prepares the feast of Christmas. We are a little bit more focused on Jesus Christ, not on Christmas. And we remember that the Son of God came on earth, became a true Man for our salvation. We do not just remember it, but we want also to think about it. What are the consequences for each of us? What does it mean? That the Son of God, God the Son came on earth for our salvation. And here in the Gospel of John, it's summarized in a very nice and wise manner. It says that the Light came on earth. In the Bible, light is an image for God, for the glory of God, for the presence of God. So, Light came on earth that means God, His glory, His majesty came on earth into the world. Light is the majesty of God, it's the glory of God. So, darkness is the contrary. Darkness is the remoteness of God. Light is also the image for the true knowledge, the true understanding. You understand God in the right manner, you have a true understanding of His will. And darkness is the ignorance of the will of God and thus it's an image for sin. And that's the meaning of the whole story. Light came on earth: God in His majesty, in His glory. And He came to bring us the right understanding and the right knowledge of God and of His will. And actually, that was the Son of God, as man, Jesus Christ did. He revealed to us the true nature of God and He gave us the true understanding of God. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people, the people of Israel, they had an understanding of God, but it's different from our understanding. For them, God was the Almighty One, the glorious One, the Holy One. He was in heaven, and you couldn't see Him. And it was just impossible for a human being to see God. And they did believe when a man sees God, he will die, because it's not possible. He is a sinner and having an encounter with God, seeing God, hearing His voice, you will die. Remember the story with the mountain when God spoke to His people, they were afraid. No, no talk to Moses, we do not want to talk to You, it's too dangerous, we will die. That was the understanding. God is so holy, so perfect, you cannot meet Him otherwise you will die. On the other hand, they described God as a human being with human qualities. And when you read the Old Testament, you see yes, they saw God as a human being. God was angry when His honour was violated. He reacted as a man. Oh, I regret what I've done. I will change My mind. And each time man did something wrong, He was angry, and He punished them. And in the whole Old Testament, they present God as a human being. God is angry. He repents and He wants to change His mind because He's not happy with mankind. And when His honour is violated, He wants people to repair this injustice as a human being. And then came the Lord Jesus. And He said, I am the Light, and I will show you the true nature of God. God Himself comes on earth. Jesus Christ is God. God is Jesus Christ. And people could touch Him. They could see Him. They could talk to Him. And Jesus Christ was just the true Man. He had the same life as other human beings. He shared their fate. He suffered. He was hungry. He was thirsty. He had to suffer. He had to die. And through this, God wanted to say I'm with you. I'm on your side. I'm on the side of the weak ones. I'm on the side of the sinners. I'm with you. I am in your midst. I’m not far away. You can see Me. You can approach Me. You can talk to Me. On the other side, He showed also the true nature of God. And say, ya the majesty of God is beyond your understanding. But what does this majesty consist in? God is love. And His love is so great that it's always beyond your understanding. The love of God and His grace is much greater than everything you can imagine. See the difference? For the Jewish people in the Old Testament, God was the Almighty. You couldn't come to Him. You couldn't see Him. You couldn't talk to Him otherwise you had to die, but on the other side, He behaves as a human being. He's angry. He wants to punish. And Jesus said, no, God is here in your midst. You can come to Him. You can talk to Him. He's with you. Whatever happens to you. He's on your side. And He is grace and love. The true knowledge of Jesus Christ. That's the light that shows us where is God, who is God, what His nature consists in. God is here with you. He is grace and He is love.
The light of Jesus Christ revealed also the true nature of sin and gives us the right understanding of sin. In the Old Testament, to please God, you had to respect the commandments and the law. And each time you didn’t, you committed the sin. And because you committed a sin, God was irritated. He was angry, and He punished you. As a result, each time you were sick, you had a problem, that was a sign, oh, that's the punishment of God. You are a sinner. And if you are sick, every sickness is a punishment of God. You are poor. That's a punishment of God. You've got a problem, that's a punishment of God. You have done something wrong. That was the understanding of the Jewish people. And now Jesus Christ comes and says, oh no, I have another light. I will show you the true understanding of sin. Remember the story of the paralytic. They brought a man to Him. The man was a paralytic. And for the Jews, it was obvious. He must have done something wrong, he or his parents. Something was wrong. That's the punishment of God. Now this man comes, they bring him to Jesus and Jesus says, your sins are forgiven. And what happened? He was still paralysed. Oh, I have forgiven him his sins and he is still paralysed. He cannot walk. That means his sickness, the fact that he is paralysed has nothing to do with his sins. If he is paralysed, it's not a punishment of God because see, I have forgiven him, and he is still paralysed. Then He said, now you can stand up, take your bed and walk to show that He had the power to forgive sins. But the meaning behind that was, that's not the punishment of God. That's just a consequence of the domination of evil because all of us, we live under the domination of evil, but sin or the sickness is not a punishment of God. God is not a God who punishes. You live under the domination of sin. And I am the Saviour who wants to deliver you from this domination of sin. I want to deliver you from the consequences of the sin. But I am not the God who punishes. I want to deliver you.
Jesus also explained that the understanding of the Jewish people was not really the good one because they knew you have to respect all the rules, but there are some rules that are more important than others. I told you already in Bloemfontein and sorry for the brothers and sisters from Bloemfontein that I repeat the same story, that it’s so important to see things in the light of Jesus Christ and not in the Jewish light. Because some Christians do exactly the same today. They have a catalogue of sins, and a number of rules they have to respect, but some rules are more important than others. And some things are more serious than others. The most serious sin is the one committed by my neighbour for sure. And there's a simple example in the Bible. Remember the story of this woman who was caught in adultery, and they brought her to Jesus and said we've caught her. She has committed adultery, and in the Law of Moses it's written she must be stoned to death. That was absolutely true. They've just forgotten a small detail. To commit adultery, you have to be two. What about the guy? Because in the Law of Moses, it's written, and I checked it, if a man and a woman commit adultery, both have to be stoned to death. But the man, that was not a problem. He must have a good reason. They brought only the woman. You see their understanding. It's a sin but one sin is more serious than the other. The sin of the woman is more serious. Jesus taught the problem and He said she has to be stoned to death, but the one who has committed no sin, he can throw the first stone. He wanted to say to them, okay, maybe you didn't commit adultery, but you have other things. And then they realised, my sin is as serious as her sin. There is no hierarchy in sin. The light of Jesus Christ. And I'm so sorry that today so many Christians are still with this Jewish understanding. They have a number of sins, and for them, this is a sin, and this is a deadly sin. And other sins, no that's less serious. And if you commit this sin, the Chief Apostle should throw you out of the church. But other sins, oh no, please forgive me. That is not the light of Jesus Christ, sorry. Jesus Christ gave us the true understanding of sin. He was the only man. He came into the world, and he lived until the end without committing a sin. So, through Jesus Christ, we can discover what sin consists in. Jesus Christ was the only One who committed no sin. So, if you do not believe, trust and love as Jesus did, you commit a sin. That's easy to understand. Jesus Christ had no sin, the only man who had no sin. So, to know if you are a sinner, just compare yourself with Jesus Christ. And if you do not believe, trust and love as Jesus did, then you commit a sin. That gives us the true understanding of sin. And then we realise, surely, all of us are sinners.
Jesus Christ is the light. He revealed to us the true nature, the true knowledge of God. He gives us the true understanding of sin and it says here that He lights every man. That's also a nice effect of this light coming on earth. He lights every man. That means nobody's forgotten. Nobody is too small, too poor to be considered and loved by Jesus Christ. And today in our society, you know that better than I do, so many people are just forgotten, rejected. They are just nothing. Nobody cares about them. They can be sick and die. Nobody cares about them. Jesus lights every man. Nobody is too small, too poor, too bad for Him. He wants to save all of them. He's on the side of everyone, whoever he is. Whatever he has done. Jesus Christ says I'm on your side. I want to save you. You are not forgotten by Jesus. He lights every man because He considers not only what's visible, but also the invisible side. Remember the story of the offering of the widow. I don't need to give much more explanations. He lights the situation. He sees the deeds but also the motivation. He hears the words, but He sees also the hearts. He is the light, and he knows the man better than the man himself because he considers everything, the visible side and what's less visible. He lights every man. For every man, whatever his situation may be. Jesus Christ comes to him and says where you are now, what you are now, there's a way for you to be saved. Just believe in Me and follow Me. Whoever you are, whatever your situation may be, whatever you've done, there is a way. There is hope. There’s a light. Believe in Me. Follow Me and you will be saved. There is not even one man on earth who can say there is no hope for me. Jesus Christ comes and shows him the way and says see, if you believe in Me and if you follow Me, you can be saved. The light for hope. He sees every man. Nobody's forgotten. He knows exactly who we are, what we are, and He says I can save you. Light of hope. He lights every man on earth.
Jesus Christ is the light and He said that whoever believes in Him and follows Him, becomes a child of light. That's interesting. So not only we are saved, but if you see the light and you follow the light, we can become a child of light. What does it mean? Jesus explains it. Being a child of light, you bring the fruit of the Spirit. A child of light, his characteristic is truth and goodness. A true disciple of Christ tells the truth, is the truth and does good. That's a sign of light. Jesus said, as our children sang before the service, let your light shine. Let the people see your good deeds so that they can praise God. And that's something interesting. I've not enough time to develop this. But brothers think about it. Let your light shine into the world so that people can see your good deeds and praise God, not you. That they can see your good works and that they can glorify and praise God. You can conduct many services with this. That's a child of light. The child of light knows I cannot judge my neighbour. That's not up to me. Remember the story of the adultery woman. Jesus wanted to tell them the only one who can judge this woman is Me, because I'm the only One with no sin. But I am working to save your neighbour. The child of light knows I am not allowed to judge my neighbour. And I am absolutely not allowed to punish the sinner because I am a sinner too. The child of light is aware that the only one who can judge, is Jesus Christ because He has no sin. He can judge. And what is He doing? He is at work to save my neighbour, not to punish him. That's the child of light. Brothers and sisters, let our light shine in this world, in today's world where we live, in the situation we're living in. Let our light shine.
And the last thought. Jesus warned also His disciples and said beware that's the good light, the light of Jesus Christ, but there’s also the false light. Don't follow them. Paul said in another manner, be aware that the devil transforms himself into an angel of light. He disguises himself as an angel of light. Jesus said there will be false Christs and false prophets. Don't follow them. They are false angels of light. What is a devil that transformed himself into a false angel of light? It's easy to understand. Remember the temptation of Jesus in the desert. The devil came. We used to say he came with the Scripture in his hand. And he wanted to tempt Jesus. If You are the Son of God, then you could transform the stones into bread. In other words, use your filiation to improve your situation on earth. Peter did the same when he came to Jesus. Jesus announced His death and the sufferings and Peter said no, that shouldn't happen to You. You are the Son of God; you are the Christ. That cannot happen to You. And Jesus said, Satan behind me. These are thoughts of man not thoughts of God. In both cases, the same spirit coming with what seemed to be holy thoughts. And the light, the true light it says no, these are human thoughts, not the thoughts of God. Don't use your faith just to improve your life on earth. If you follow Jesus, it's not to have a nice life on earth and to be spared from sufferings. If you follow Christ, it is to have eternal life. If you follow Him, it's because you love Him, not out of interest. That's a false Christ who tells us follow Christ and you will become rich; you will never be sick, and you will be successful. That's not the message of Jesus Christ. I wonder in how many places today on this Sunday, people are preaching in the name of Jesus Christ, promising the believers follow Jesus Christ, pray, give your offerings, respect the rules, and you will be successful, and you will be cured, and everything will be well in your life. That's not the message of Jesus Christ. Sorry. Paul, he was even a little more aggressive. He talked about these false prophets who sell the word of God to make money and for their own glory. It still exists probably today. People who peddle the word of God just for their own profit, to make some money, for their own glory. Brothers, that's not our task, isn't it? We do not sell the word of God. We do not serve the Lord to improve our life and to become richer and for our own glory. I am the Evangelist; you know what I mean. Paul said these are false prophets, false lights. They use Christ for their own interest.
And I come back to the false light, brothers and sisters, and that's really my concern as a Chief Apostle that so many Christians, sometimes even New Apostolic Christians, still have a Jewish understanding of God and of His will. Remember what I said in the beginning. I do not want to repeat it. God has to punish blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That's a Jewish understanding. We are Christians. Let us see the Bible. Let us see God. Let us see His will and His love in the light of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came not to punish, but to save. He doesn't say that your today's condition is a punishment of God. He says that's a consequence of the domination of evil, but I want to save you, and I can save you. If you follow Me, you will be saved. Jesus Christ shows us our neighbour and says see this one. I love him. I want to save him. It's not up to you to judge and to punish. That's My task, but I won't. I will work until the end to do My best to save him. Let us be true children of light, following Jesus, doing good so that people can see our good works. And praise God, not us. Amen.
During the divine service, the Chief Apostle performed the following acts:
Retirement of Apostle Peter Thompson who served in the ministry for 44 years.
Ordination of Shepherd Gavin van der Hoven (Former District Rector of Lentegeur district) who was ordained as an Apostle and will replace the retired Apostle Peter Thompson.
In addition to this ordination, Bishop Lubasi Masule of Namibia was also ordained into the Apostle ministry to support the Apostle Liwakala working in a reorganised Zambezi Apostle Area.
The Chief Apostle also assigned Apostle Peter Lambert as District Apostle Helper. The Chief Apostle will appoint District Apostle Helper Lambert as District Apostle Kriel's successor on 10 December 2023.