Sunday, December 31, 2023

PROVERBS 3:5-8 “TRUST IN THE LORD” - OLD YEARS EVE MESSAGE

 


It is fitting that the last day of this year today falls on a Sunday, or as we prefer to call it – the Lord’s Day. We are bidding 2023 goodbye and look forward into 2024, comforted by the fact that despite a globally chaotic 2023 we may know that this world remains in God’s hands. For me personally it is also fitting to end my labours as a pastor of the Eastside Baptist Church among you on the Lord’s day. 

I do so solemnly and yet gratefully.

I have chosen this particular text from the book of Proverbs for this occasion, because it has been in many ways an anchor text for my life and ministry. In my pastoral practise and counselling, in hospitals and in many other settings I have shared and impressed this text   upon the minds and hearts of many people, young and old. Therefore it is fitting that I use this portion of sacred Scripture as my last word in my capacity as an outgoing pastor of the Eastside Baptist Church, as I commend you to the Lord with these words. I shall of course continue to use it, along with all the Bible, as  long as the Lord lends me breath. 

And now to the text.

1.      Introduction (3:1–4)

3:1–2 The father (Solomon) begins with two admonitions: “my son, do not forget…” lit. do not cut yourself off from my  authoritative teaching (Heb. torah), but “keep” (lit. guard) my “commandments”. The two admonitions in turn are linked to two promises, which are conditional upon the son’s obedience: (i) “length of days and years of life” and (ii) “peace” (Heb. Shalom-  indicating  a sense of holistic well-being)

3:3–4 These verses contain two further admonitions urging the son 

(i) not to let go of the virtues of “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Hebr. chesed -  covenantal faithfulness ) but to 

(ii) “bind them around your neck” – i.e. let these virtues  be  prominently  and visibly displayed  in his life (see 1:9).

Life needs a solid foundation. The Jews saw this in the Torah. We see it in the completed revelation of God which ends in Jesus (Hebr. 1:1-3). He is the fulfilment of the law. Let us  therefore make it our aim,  with all our heart,  to display  the Lord Jesus prominently in our lives. Let our lives be attractional displays. Let us find favour and good success in the eyes of God and man (3:4). Let us see how we may do this..

2.      Main Body (3:5–10)

3:5–6 Three admonitions (3:5–6a) challenge the son to “trust in the LORD”,

·         entirely—“with all your heart[1]

·         exclusively—”do not lean/ rely on your own understanding”

·         extensively —“in all your ways acknowledge Him”

Charles Bridges says of these verses, that this is 'the polar star of the child of God- faith in his father’s providence, promises and grace'[2]. This is the North Star - and just as in old times  it guided  ships  in the ocean, these verses are able to guide the child of God in their life.

To trust the LORD means to put one’s entire confidence in God because He alone knows the complete picture. The word “trust” here (Hebr. batach) means literally to lie helpless, facedown- like a captured person. It is a picture of a man totally stretched out on his face before God. He is totally subjected to His will.  This reminds us of the Lord Jesus,  who  "fell on his face, and prayed ... not as I will, but as you will" (Mt. 26:39).

Self-confidence, trusting in our own abilities  by contrast is dangerous because of our own limited knowledge and understanding. It is not safe to trust in ourselves!  We must acknowledge Him in all  our ways,  literally “know him” (Hebr. yadah, “to know” - intimately and personally). It describes experiential knowledge (Prov.1:2). It is the knowledge David spoke about in his counsel to Solomon at the end of His life:

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be found  by you, but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever." (1 Chr.28:9).

Our trust in God grows as we learn more and more about Him. The more we know God, the more we get to know Him and trust Him, the easier it becomes to commit our ways to Him. Trusting God cannot be separated from intimacy with God. If we do this, we are assured of this promise: “He will make straight your paths”. The verb “to make smooth; to make straight”… (Hebr. yashar) indicates the making of the way free from obstacles cf. Isa 40:3. By trusting God, He will make the way smooth for the believer, even among many challenges, helping you to reach your heavenly goal.

3:7–8 Two admonitions:

(i)                 one is negative, warning the son “not to be wise in his own eyes” (i.e. not to be an arrogant know-it-all). Be very  careful in  making your own understanding, whatever seems reasonable and logical according to your temporal, human understanding  the measure of all things. You may yet find  that your thinking may be absolutely foolish when measured against the Bible. Learn to pray (Prayer is trusting God!) that you would be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col. 1:9; Eph. 5:17).  Indeed, our greatest challenge in this life is to learn to think God’s thoughts after Him.

(ii)               The other admonition is positive, exhorting his son to “fear the LORD” (3:7) – which is the beginning, the starting point of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). Again the keeping of this command leads to two promises 

(a) that knowing and trusting God brings  “healing to  your flesh” (lit. navel[3])-  The image here is of the health-giving nourishment  which  flows from the mother’s body through the umbilical cord into her preborn baby’s body. The navel thus  symbolizes  the nourishing of the flesh – the  whole body  

(b) refreshment (lit. drink)  to the bones (i.e. skeleton). The  fear of the Lord is a healing flow into our sin-sick souls. It is the marrow or nourishment-drink, refreshment for our bones.

The wellness of flesh and bones signifies holistic, physical and spiritual health i.e. wholeness to body and spirit.

3:9–10 Here we find a single admonition followed by two promises. The admonition relates to the public worship of God. To “honour the LORD” means to think of Him as supreme and to show it publicly not only with our lips, but also with our lives... such as honouring the LORD with our wealth (3:9a) … expanded by “the giving of our first-fruits” (3:9b) … the giving of the very best. The double promise in 3:10 indicates that God will reciprocate with abundance to those who honour him with their wealth.

Conclusion (3:11–12)

The conclusion urges the son to embrace the LORD’s discipline because such discipline is rooted in love. It reflects the essence of a true father-son relationship. Hebrews 12:3–12 provides an authoritative commentary on these verses.  As Christians we need to learn to see ourselves as in God’s hands, and if in God’s hands, then in the hands of our heavenly Father. This means that  the sum-total of our experiences, the hills and the valleys, God’s encouragements  and His fatherly chastisement  must be  received as from His hands. 

SUMMARY

Our brief meditation has been on the nature  of  true  godliness  which  manifests itself   in

(i)                 3:1-4 Embracing the teaching (Torah- which has its end and perfection in Jesus), rooted in the covenantal disciplines of love and faithfulness. This really pleases God.

(ii)               3:5-8 Evidenced in  an experiential  trust in the LORD -  intellectual humility

(iii)             3:9-10  and seen in  actual works  such as  submission of material wealth to God’s rule  and patient acceptance of divine discipline (3:11–12).

APPLICATION : Reflections and Resolutions 

As  we find ourselves at the end of 2023, facing 2024 it is good  to use this text to make  some godly resolutions. 

Here are  4  questions, resolutions  and promises  taken from our text for our consideration 

1.      How have I related to God’s Word? 

Have I forgotten His teachings? Have I sinned against God’s commandments? Have I been a visible imitator of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness?

Resolution: Get to know His Word better in 2024 

Promise: A better quality of life - length of days (better quality of real living) and real peace; more favour  and good success in the eyes of God and man.

2.      Have I trusted God’s Word more than my own understanding? 

Have I acknowledged Him (made it my business to get to know Him more and more)? Have I been too wise in my own eyes?

Resolution: Trust God more implicitly; be more suspicious of my own capacities to understand; get to know Him better; fear Him; turn from all evil.

Promise:  I will be guided by God. He will make straight my crooked paths; my psychosomatic ills may disappear.  

3.      Have I honoured God in my life ?

Particularly with my wealth? Have I observed the First- fruits principle?  

Resolution: Be more deliberate in honouring God practically.

Promise: barns filled; vats bursting – meaning that you will know that you have more enough, when God becomes your Provider.

4.      How do I relate to God’s discipline? 

Have I perhaps despised Him for it? Have I become weary of it?

Resolution:  Learn to appreciate God’s discipline.

Promises:  Discipline is a sign that God loves you and delights in you.

I leave you now in God’s good hands, and trust  that the good work which He has begun in you He will be pleased to complete (Phil. 1:6) 



[1] The “heart” commonly refers to the mind as the center of thinking and reason (Prov. 3:3; 6:21; 7:3). It includes the emotions (Prov. 15:15, 30), the will (Prov. 11:20; 14:14), and thus, the whole inner being (Prov. 3:5). The heart is the fountain of all wisdom, the source of whatever affects speech (Prov. 4:24), sight (Prov. 4:25), and conduct (Prov. 4:26, 27).

[2] Charles Bridges: Proverbs, Banner of Truth,p.23

[3] Hebrew word for "body" = umbilical cord, navel (the source of nutrition in utero).

Sunday, December 24, 2023

John 14:1-14 "Jesus helps me to know God personally"

 


Today is the 4th Advent. 

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or "arrival".  We speak of the four Advent Sundays which come to a climax with the arrival or birth or advent of our Lord Jesus on Christmas day.  This reminds us on a yearly basis also that there is also another advent in view – namely the second coming of Christ. Don’t forget that!

We have taken as our general text 2 Corinthians 5:19 for this advent season: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 

And in this season  we are thinking of at least 5 reasons why we ought to be thankful for God’s indescribable gospel gift:

1. Jesus, the indescribable gift from God makes us have peace with a righteous, holy, just God. We need peace, for through we have become enemies of God.  By trusting in Jesus I may have my sins truly forgiven and His judgment taken away. In Christ, I am truly free! “If the Son set you free, you will be free indeed!” (Jn.8:36)

2. This indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus assures me that beyond the grave I will possess life and joy and not a fearful prospect of judgment.

3. This indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus also satisfies the deepest, ultimate longings of my heart, and not just the superficial desires for personal comfort and prosperity.

4. This indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus helps me to know God personally. We shall consider this fact today.

5. And then lastly, this indescribable gift, the Lord Jesus can really change people. The testimony of the characters of the Bible, and the history of the influence of the gospel of Jesus in the world is an eloquent testimony to this fact. This will be the subject of Christmas morning.

Our anchor text for this message is John 14:9.  

Jesus said to Philip, ‘If you have seen me you have seen the Father’".  

And our main point is this: When we see Jesus as He is, then we also see and understand God as He is - in His essential Nature and Being. Therefore get to know Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible, and you will get to know who God is and what He is like.  This means that you and I will have to be in the daily presence of Jesus and it means  that you and I  must be engaged in a lifelong study, prayerful meditation of the Bible, both in engaging in it for ourselves and also by listening to sound preachers of the Word. Always remember that God has given us an inspired Word[1] – a Testament in two parts about Himself.  And if you want to hear God speaking, read His Word aloud. Hear it spoken aloud. That is the safest way to get to know God.  

The great church father Augustine, before his conversion, was in a bad state. His life was falling to pieces, but the prayers of his godly mother Monica were being answered. Sitting in a garden, he heard children playing and singing, “Tolle lege, tolle lege” … take up and read. He  grabbed the Bible next to him and  read aloud  the first text that opened – Romans 13:13,14. The rest is history. He was a changed man.

We now consider the 4th aspect:  God’s indescribable Gift, the Lord Jesus helps us to know God personally. It is this personal knowledge of God which we must now consider. Personal means, ‘near us’ and ‘in us’. We were made for intimacy with God.

7 Reflections: We were made for a Personal Relationship with God 

1. Consider the fact that we were originally made for this purpose

        i.            In the act of Creation we (mankind) were made for intimate fellowship with God. We alone of all creatures were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27).  We alone, of all creatures were made to have a capacity for a relationship with the Creator.  

      ii.            BUT we also must recognise the fact that we no longer possess that special relationship. We are a fallen people.  The Bible teaches that sin has destroyed that personal fellowship (Genesis 3). This sin has alienated every descendant of Adam and Eve. No-one is righteous – not even one (Rom. 3:9-12; cf. Ps 14:1-3; 53:1-3).  We are far from God – each one of us. And Jesus, God’s indescribable gift alone can deal with this problem of our alienation from God.

    iii.            AND SO CHRIST CAME AT CHRISTMAS! In grace and mercy and unfathomable love, God has created a way to save those who look to Christ the Saviour (John 1:29). Those who look to Christ are freed from the bondage of sin, and they are led back into a personal relationship with God via the road of progressive sanctification. Those who look to Him are radiant, says Psalm 34:5. Why so?  

They have rediscovered their sense of identity, purpose and destiny. They are able to answer life’s three most important questions with confidence: Who am I? What is my purpose? Where am I going?

2. Immanuel is personal! Consider the fact that the holy God has made Himself known to fallen sinners once again in the person of His Son, who is Jesus Immanuel – which translates as ‘God with us’. (Matt. 1:22;  cf. Isa. 7:14).  ‘With us’ means that He is near, and if He is near  then He is also personal. In Christ, God has become once again accessible to us: Ephesians 2:13-22, “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ… so then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God ...”.  If we are born again and under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and in fellowship with the household of God  where we are fed through  sound expository preaching we learn to get to know the  God from whom we became alienated. 

3. God the Son: Consider again who Jesus is, and what qualifies Him to make the Father known to us: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father". (John 1:1-4,14).  Jesus is here declared to be One who is from God and not only that. He Himself  is God. More than that, He as God took on flesh – our nature – minus sin (Philip. 2:1ff). If then He is  from God, but also One who became flesh, then He  is qualified to make God known, and that is exactly what the Bible says in John 1:18, ”No one has ever God; the only God  (note the deity of Jesus) who is at the Father’s side has made Him known.”

4. Jesus’ own promises of a continued personal relationship through the Holy Spirit:  Remember that Jesus, at His ascension told His disciples that He would not leave them as orphans (Jn. 14:18), but that He would send one like Himself (Jn.16:7), the Holy Spirit who would “dwell with you and in you (Jn. 14:17). The Holy Spirit was given by God to bring Himself near to His people, and to maintain the closeness of God with His people. He is the indwelling Spirit. He is with us and in us. That is very personal, but people often forget that the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit is not primarily related to power manifestations, but to the leading of people into the knowledge of God through His Word, so that they might become what He is. It is a tragedy that the intimate Spirit has been abused by carnal men and women who are only after His effects - signs, wonders and miracles, but not after Himself, and not after  the defining virtues of holiness, godliness and Christlikeness.  The Holy Spirit’s main work is to make the person and work of Christ known (Jn. 14:26), and if Christ, then also the Father. Again I must remind you   what this is ultimately all about. We were created for God Himself. We have all fallen into sin. In that state we do not know God. We possess only the remnants of a far and distant and corrupted memory,  and that is why there are so many religions. They are all corruptions and false notions of God. Our greatest need is to get to know God. Jesus,  and the outpoured Holy Spirit ALONE  can  help  us  to find the way back to the one true God.  

5.  Jesus personal prayer for His people: Consider John 17, Jesus’ high priestly prayer, and particularly 17:26, the great conclusion of that prayer: “I made  known to them your Name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love  with which you have loved me  may be in them, and I in them”.  In this prayer Jesus   reveals His primary reason for coming: To make the God  whom the world has lost known, and to reignite a personal relationship  between  those who believe and the Father and the Son.  I remind you from Romans 8:34 that Jesus continues to pray for His people –  and essentially that they may remain intimate with their Father in heaven.

6. In Christ! Now consider one of Paul’s favourite phrases, applied to believers -”in Christ” – illustratively applied to Ephesians 1:1- 14: cf. verses 1b,3,4,6,7,9,11,13. In Christ or ’into Christ’ expresses our nearness to Jesus, the  Mediator between God and men. When we are ‘in Christ’ then we are also ‘in God’.  

7.  Our Future Destiny: The Father’s House – our future personal place. Finally we consider John 14:1-14, the text with which we began as we see how Jesus, in a most touching way leads us back in to the Father’s house and into the Father’s presence. This beautifully connects the parable of the lost Son (Lk. 15:11-32) with our own story. Consider that each  one of us is a lost son and daughter,  and by our conversion we are returning to the Father’s house, where we  are so well received  and where we shall finally see Him for who He is!   

Consider  from that text:

(i)        The necessity of believing in God and in Christ  in order to gain personal knowledge of God  (14:1,10,12)

(ii)       The certainty of being received into  a real place - eternal dwellings - the Father’s house (14:2)

(iii)       The assurance of  being in the personal presence of the Saviour (14:3)

(iv)    God’s patience with our uncertainties in the meantime: He bears with Thomas and Philip,  and in both cases  He reminds them that the way to heaven is  rooted in a firm  attachment (14:6) and a firm look at Christ. Jesus said to Philip, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). 

We end where we began. Our grand purpose, the meaning of life and our destiny is rooted in what we were made to be. We were made for God. We were made for intimacy, fellowship. 

Sadly we have gone in search of many things, other gods, other ways (idolatry).

But God who is rich in mercy gave us the very best, His Son. Those who look to Him  will  know the Father!   God wants to be known. He wants to be loved. He wants to be our Father and our Friend in the profoundest way imaginable. Although He is great beyond all imagination, He came near in Jesus so that we could know him. "If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him" (John 14:7). And if you have received this personal friend, who is also at the same time  the Mighty God  then you can truly say this Christmas,

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift."  Amen!

 



[1] 2 Tim 3:16. We therefore depend on the Holy Spirit to be  the proper Interpreter

Sunday, November 26, 2023

FAREWELL SERMON #3: Romans 16

 


This is the last of my three farewell sermons in which I take the 16th chapter of Paul to the Romans. This chapter consists of a long list of personal greetings, along with some final instructions and a doxology. I want to use Paul’s outline to share some closing thoughts. 

1.         16:1- 16 Greetings to…

The bulk of this last chapter to the Christians in Rome contains a long list of people who had been a rich source of blessing to Paul. To them he sends his affectionate greetings. To begin with there was Phoebe (16:1-2).  Her name means “bright” or “radiant”. Phoebe is the first of thirty-five personal names, most of who are mentioned nowhere else in Scripture. Phoebe was the one who hand-delivered this letter to the church in Rome. She lived in Cenchreae, a harbour town east of the city of Corinth, located on an isthmus, a narrow strip of land sticking out into the Mediterranean sea. Paul had visited here on his third missionary journey (Acts 18cf 18:18).  Phoebe was a woman deeply committed to the church. She was known best for her servant spirit. She seemed to have been a woman of means, for she was a patron[1] to many and to Paul also.  The history of the church is resplendent with such women who were pillars in the church. The 18th century evangelist George Whitefield speaks in such terms of Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon (1707-1791), a pivotal figure in the 18thC. Evangelical Revival. She was a patron to many in the Calvinistic Methodistic Connexion.  

I think of my first experience of a Phoebe in terms of Winnie Branquino, a servant of the Walvis Bay Baptist church in the 1980’s. Her home and heart were always open. Her generosity was well known. I am also thinking of Linda Gibb, wife of a previous elder, the late Colin Gibb, a remarkable man in his own right. What a kind and generous soul she was to the church- deeply interested in people. She was, like the mother of Rufus, a mother in the Lord to us (16:13).

Then there are Priscilla and Aquila (16:3)[2], Paul’s fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who had "risked their necks" for Paul, and in whose home there was a church meeting (1 Cor. 16:19). This was a special ministry couple with whom Paul felt deeply connected. They had first met in Corinth (Acts 18). They were theologically astute, mature, faithful and hospitable believers.   These are rare couples indeed, but we have them at Eastside too! I pray that many more of you younger couples will become such in the church.

And then there was Epaenetus, Paul’s first convert in Asia. To my shame I cannot remember the first convert at Eastside, but one of them is Mike Callesen whom the Lord saved and delivered in a most remarkable  and dramatic way from the power of the devil.  Then there is “Mary who has worked hard for you” (16:6). The same is said of the “beloved  Persis who has worked hard in the Lord” (16:12).  Here I remember a whole bunch of people. I begin with our church administrators – Carmen Steyn (neé Yates), Henriette de Koning, Cheryl Corringham- our longest serving administrator to date, Liz Walters and her pastoral heart, Linda Rush and her quiet, unassuming, hardworking efficiency, and now we have our happy soul in the church office - Monica Simon.

Into this category I also place those who have worked hard in establishing the church’s financial accountability through our Fincom, which began under the leaderships of Etienne Fourie, Douglas Reissner and Le’ahm Lucas. We thank God for many faithful givers over many years  - who responded gladly in generous and anonymous giving, because they believed that the furtherance of the gospel needed that kind of support. We have never needed to supplement the church funds with bazaar’s and the like. God has always supplied our needs through free, un-coerced giving. Praise be to God! We have always preached the gospel for free, at weddings and funerals. No cent, no money was ever required of those that were glad or sad. On the contrary, we steadfastly refused to take money for such occasions.

I also think of the Administrative Steering Committee which was first conceptualised and implemented by Daniel and Renee van den Bergh. I think of hands-on, diligent, practical hard working men like Andre Walters. I think of our deacon, Douglas Reissner who has shepherded so many people through practical challenges. I think of all the deaconally minded and gifted people in the church that have reached out and helped so many inside and outside the church community. Our good friends Niels and Bente Bernstein are worthy of special mention. The diaconal spirit of Phoebe lives in them.

I now also think of my fellow workers in the pastoral ministry (16:7,9,12). We appointed our first youth pastor, Mark Nieuwoudt, a BI graduate in 1994. He left us in 1996 for a calling to St Helena island. We struggled to have biblical elders for 12 years, because of much internal division and unhelpful influences from the outside, but we did eventually find them and appointed them in 2003. Before that happened God sent men like Erroll Hulse from the UK, Martin Holdt, Brian Stone and Erroll Wagner from South Africa to help us, and to relieve me from time to time, when we had no elders. I thank God for the many brothers in the ministry across Southern Africa with whom I enjoyed cordial relationships and friendships. The men of the Spurgeon fraternal which we started in 1998 were a life line to me. The work of Reformation is not for the fainthearted.  We started the SOLA 5 Association in 2005 – a network of God centred Evangelicals in Southern Africa.  We must not forget  the men from Zambia – men like Ronald Kalifungwa and Conrad Mbewe who have helped us in the greater work of the reformation of the Namibian church.

The start of an eldership at Eastside in 2003, following many years of severe trials, produced men like Colin Gibb who is now with the Lord, and also Pieter Slabber.  The biblical, 1Timothy 3 driven eldership finally settled the church. We thank God at this time especially for Pieter, converted under this ministry. He has served this church for 20 years as an elder. In time Norman van Zyl was added. He is now released for church planting work among Afrikaans speakers. Nsenduluka Kapambwe, a Zambian brother was ordained in April 2010 and led the church plant at Grace Reformed Baptist Church under our oversight for 2 years. That church is doing well by the grace of our Lord. Frans Brits was first ordained as an elder in September 2014 and as a vocational elder in January 2017.  The latest addition to our eldership is our faithful brother, Le’ahm Lucas. We also mention our first pastoral intern, Todd Hammerstrom (2007-2009) now in the USA,and Uaundja Karamata (2019-2021)   who is now our designated church planter in Otjiwarongo.  

I think of so many others that have served the church as early youth leaders (e.g. Lameck Mwewa/ Andrew and Irmela Jamieson) the Sunday School, for many years under our superintendent Bill Puckey, and the many  Crèche teachers, small group leaders – not forgetting those that do the work of the ministry  right now. You know who you are.  

I think of that precious little group of faithful Saturday morning prayer warriors (Here I think specifically of dear Dr. Zimba)  over the years. May the Lord increase their tribe among us! I don’t think that I have ever missed a prayer meeting when I was in town.  The church advances by prayer. Prayer is expressing confidence in God’s power. By prayer we have sometimes seen mountains moved.

I think of our many church musicians over the years. I believe that Ronelle Laue is our longest standing musician today.  Please forgive me for being sparse in my mentioning of many of you.

I think of the evangelistic and missionary efforts of the church. In early years we did much street work and tract distribution in the homes of our street, when you could still enter at a gate. Eastside has always been active in promoting partnerships with other churches and church planting endeavours, from the Zambezi (Caprivi) region down to Lüderitz. In the early  2000’s we undertook a mission trip into Angola (Menongue) and now, as we speak,  we are privileged to minister to many Angolans. 

There are so many people I now think of. Many of course are no longer with us, having moved elsewhere in the world or having been promoted to glory. Some have left for reasons best known to themselves, being disaffected or disappointed that we could not be more to them. Had everyone stayed we would have been well over a thousand members. We certainly have seen many come and go over the years. Our persistent prayer for them has been, “Lord, may they leave in a better shape than they have come. Make them fruitful wherever they go”.  

As Paul concluded his letter to the Romans, he was filled with such grateful, thankful memories concerning those that had co-laboured with him in the work of the gospel. So it is right that we should spend the bulk of this morning in such reflections. He not only greeted many of them by name, but he also expressed his gratitude for what they had done. What an example for all of us to follow!  What makes this list so amazing is the fact that Paul had never been to Rome! Most of the people which he mentions are those whom he had met on his journeys elsewhere and who had subsequently taken up residence in Rome. Think of the energy of having to keep in touch with all these people! Imagine Paul keeping this list of people alive in his mind, wondering, how are Asyncritus and Patrobas doing? Where in the world is Hermes now? Is he still walking in the faith?  How are Philologus and Julia and Nereus and his sister (I forgot her name), and Olympas and all the many others doing? What can I pray for?

We know from the testimony of other Scriptures that this is the way Paul related to people (e.g. Phil. 1:3-5), and here they are – their names are mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. How wonderful to know that the names of all the redeemed are written in God's book in heaven (Lk. 10:20; Phil. 4:3) but just as a token of this fact, we also find the names of some of these saints written in  the Bible - God's book on earth.

2.         16:17-20 Watch out for…Hold on to

Watch out: How wonderful to reflect positively upon all the good that God has given. Unfortunately life in a fallen world is not tidy. The church is not exempt.  Here in closing (as in most of his letters) Paul has a word of warning, in particular concerning those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught. Concerning these Paul says, “Avoid them”[3], and then he gives an insightful comment, “for such persons do not serve or Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.” I remind you that churches have a strange attraction for people with strange motives, whose problem can be simply described as, “…they serve their own appetites“.  Avoid them! Paul has a list of them too![4]  I remind you that even Jesus had his Judas.  So be aware that there will always be such in the life of the church. Train yourself [5] then with a biblical mind-set to discern what is good and  in accordance with Christian character  and what is evil, and contrary to the spirit of Jesus.  Do not disregard character traits, works of the flesh  such as are described in Galatians 5:19-21. Such things if unconfessed and not repented of, and not dealt with in the church will bring a bitter harvest.

Hold on: See what follows in 16:19-20. The church at Rome, like the Thessalonian church[6]  was known for her obedience to   the Lord Jesus Christ. That is a wonderful thing to say about a church, and I trust that the Head of this church, the Lord Jesus Christ will say that about you – this generation. Eastside in her first generation was not that church. Take note this piece of pastoral advice,  “I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” Learn to be discerning by focussing on what is good. “Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it” (Jer. 6:16). Watch out for what you feed upon, for what you feed upon determines how you act and react. Eastside needs people who feed on what is good. God’s Word is good.  We need to be good – biblically good people to this broken world. That is the counter culture which we so desperately need for life in this broken world. As for the rest, know that God will soon bring all evil to an end. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”(16:20).

May God preserve this local church for a long time. For this reason you must make sure that you appoint church leaders of proven character. You must also make sure that only people with a credible testimony of conversion and a commitment to Christ and to the church become members. Insist on biblical obedience. Insist on an active membership. Don’t keep people on your church register who do not attend. Christ prunes the dead branches from the living vine. (John 15)

3. 16:16, 21-23 Greetings from …

Again we see how connected Paul is in his life and thoughts. Greetings to (16:1-16) and now greetings from (16:16, 21-23) …Remember always that you are connected to others: “All the churches of Christ greet you (16:16). Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius the writer of this letter, Gaius Paul’s host, and the whole church at Corinth, and even Erastus the city treasurer and Quartus send greetings. Continue to be prayerfully aware of our sister churches in Namibia and in Southern Africa. Our church bulletin will keep you updated.  Be connected to the bigger body of Christ, in as far as those churches hold to the teachings of God’s Word. Don’t waste your time with churches that have no room for the Word of Jesus, unless you are sent to do the work of reformation in them. In that case you better be spiritually strong.

4. 16:25-27 Doxology       

I will be brief here. See what it is that strengthens you: the gospel- the preaching of Jesus Christ. The heart of his gospel was the revelation of a Person, Jesus Himself. He is the heart of the gospel. Insist that your preachers show you the Lord Jesus Christ from the Bible. I have aimed to do that for 34 years – to tie your hearts to Jesus. I must now lay down this charge which I have received from God and you, back in January 1990. I was charged to proclaim the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to instruct you from the Word of God, to admonish, to comfort, to reprove you. I was charged to faithfully administer the ordinances and to pray for you. I was charged to disciple you into the obedience of Christ.

In becoming members of this church (as per your church membership application) you promised in turn to receive the Word of Truth and to live by its truths, as also outlines in our 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.  You promised to submit to the pastoral care provided. You promised to pray for me and my family with encouragement and financial care. 

I thank you, my sisters and brothers, for the love, kindness, and support shown me and my family these past  34 years, and especially in latter years. I am grateful for the ministry we have shared together. With joy I recall what we accomplished with God’s help, and with sadness those dreams not fulfilled. Finally I ask your forgiveness for mistakes made and expectations not met. I fall on the kind arms of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Numbers  6:24-26



[1]  Patron: A person who supports a cause

[2] There are  6 references to this couple in the Bible : Acts 18:2-3,18, 26; Rom.16:3; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim.4:19

[3] See also 2 Thess. 3:6,14 ; Titus 3:10

[4] 1 Tim. 1:19,20; 2 Tim. 2:17,18; 2 Tim. 4:10,14

[5] 1 Tim.4:7,8

[6] 1 Thess. 1:7-10

PROVERBS 3:5-8 “TRUST IN THE LORD” - OLD YEARS EVE MESSAGE

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