Chief Apostle Leber – Cape Town, South Africa – Pentecost: Sunday, 4th June 2006
Pentecost greeting word: “DO NOT DRAW BACK!”
“But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” Hebrews 10:39
Bible text: “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4: 31
Chief Apostle Leber
My dearly beloved brothers and sisters here and everywhere, you realise I am speaking English, because we are in an English-speaking country. I just want to show you that I love you and how much we appreciate to be here in Cape Town, which is, in a way, a New Apostolic centre today. And it is nice to have fellowship with you. But we look around the world and I wish everybody a blessed Pentecost. May it be a special experience for all of us. A special experience of fellowship, of peace and joy. And may the Holy Spirit come again into our hearts and influence us, and give us everything we need.
There is a special reason for my being here in Cape Town. It is just a hundred years ago that the first church was built in Cape Town, the first New Apostolic church here on this continent. And that was the starting point for a wonderful development. Now we have thousands of congregations on this continent. And we give thanks to our God, to our heavenly Father, because He has prepared everything and we were able to take it out of His hand. And may He also lead us into the future until the day when the Lord Jesus comes and takes us home.
We also think of the pioneers who have worked here. They are in eternity. I think God granted them grace that they can be here in our midst today and have fellowship with us. It is now one year since I was ordained Chief Apostle. And I must say, brothers and sisters, I am very thankful. I am thankful for your support. I am thankful for your prayers. I am thankful for your love. And I assure you anew that I love you too. Chief Apostle Fehr started the tradition of reading a special word of greeting on Pentecost. And today I also want to give you a special message. It is written in Hebrews 10: 39: “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
That is our word for the coming year. It speaks here of perdition, something that does not sound very nice. It is a very harsh word. We will just leave that part out but underline the part before it: “But we are not of those who draw back.” Full stop. That is something, my dear brothers and sisters, that is very important: not to draw back. It is nicely worded here. It says: “We are not of those who draw back.” So, generally, people draw back. But we do not do so. Children of God do not draw back. What is the difference between children of God and others? We know and believe that the Holy Spirit is in us. And this Holy Spirit gives us the strength that we don’t draw back. What dangers or circumstances force us to draw back? You draw back if you meet resistance. And that is also the danger today. There are influences which might bring us to the point where we might draw back. There are dangers from the outside and there are dangers from the inside.
Dangers from the outside are the many opinions about religious life; there are many opinions about religion that assail us and sometimes exert pressure on us. But let us not draw back. We have the strength of the Holy Spirit so we can stand firm. And the other danger is from the inside. And this is sometimes even worse. Let me mention some examples. Sometimes we pray and pray for help. But nothing happens. It can then happen that we draw back because we think that it is not worth our while to pray any more. “Maybe God does not even hear us.” Brothers and sisters, never draw back.
The Holy Spirit gives us the strength not to draw back
Another situation: We try to give testimony, to convince others of our belief. But in many cases without success. And there is the danger that we draw back, that we say, “Nobody listens to us anyway.” Brothers and sisters, children of God do not draw back. “We are not of those who draw back … but of those who believe.
Another point. Let me be very open about this. There are some brothers and sisters who are not content with the situation in their congregation. We are all human beings and that can happen. But then there is a danger that we draw back. Somebody who does not feel the godly love in the congregation will draw back. Or when you have problems with your neighbour, or whatsoever, there is the danger that you draw back. I give you the advice not to draw back.
Children of God can fight. We don’t fight physically in that we use force. We fight with godly weapons—in the first place our prayers. My dear brothers and sisters, let us take that word as divine advice. Whatever happens to us in the coming year, we will not draw back but will fight the godly fight. And then we will succeed. We have enough power through the Holy Spirit. Our heavenly Father will give us His blessing and the strength to succeed. That was the special greeting for this year.
Seeing that we are here in Cape Town where we know that there are beautiful voices and choirs I have been asked by brothers and sisters in Germany to give them plenty of opportunity to sing. So : ask you to please sing another song.
Choir: “Father, take me by the hand”
My dear brothers and sisters, I would like to continue with our text. “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” This is something which the first congregation experienced. At that time there was resistance against the Apostles. They were even prohibited from preaching. And in this situation the congregation prayed. And it must have been a very intensive prayer. Just imagine, the place where they were assembled together was shaken. And then it says that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. This leaves us a bit perplexed perhaps. Why were they filled with the Holy Spirit? This was, after all, the congregation of the Lord. And we can well assume that those who were present, the members of the congregation, had already been sealed with the Holy Spirit. We do not know the full story, because the reports are sketchy. But this is how things could have been. Nevertheless it says here: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Let me now go into the present time. I think this is also an experience which we make. We are bearers of the Holy Spirit, we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. But that is not automatically a guarantee that everything is born out of the Holy Spirit. Do we act according to the Holy Spirit day in, day out? I think we all have established that is not the case. And therefore it is always necessary to strive for this and to give the Holy Spirit room within us. What I will do in future is to pray more that all of us are filled with the Holy Spirit every day, that the Holy Spirit determines our thoughts, that the Spirit determines our actions. And if that is the case, my dear brothers and sisters, it will become evident.
It says here that when they were filled with the Holy Spirit they spoke the word of God with boldness. So there was an effect to be seen. And this must also remain our concern that we are so filled with the Holy Spirit that effects are evident. We are not only children of God by name, but we are truly the property of God. And this must be evident daily. Let me mention a few examples from Scripture which show what results when the Holy Spirit is active.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, visited one of her relatives, Elizabeth. We read that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 1: 39-45). In this situation she had a wonderful insight. Mary was pregnant, and Elisabeth could already recognise in this life developing within Mary a special godly messenger. And this was what she expressed at that moment. So when one is filled with the Holy Spirit one has special insight. Then one can see things better and deeper than with one’s intellect. Therefore let us always strive that the Holy Spirit is active within us. Let us go a step further. Jesus was once tempted in the desert. It says in this context that He was full of the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 4: 1-2). And in this situation He was able to resist all temptation. That is the effect when we are full of the Holy Spirit. Then we can stand above every-thing else and resist the spirit from below.
Let me take another step. Scripture re-ports about Stephen, a man who gave such powerful testimony. He met with fierce resistance and he was attack: he did not draw back. And in this situation he saw the heavens opened. We know from the story that he was stoned. But I think that he did not really notice, any more. He had transcended the earthly. We read of him that he was filled the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 7: 55, 56). My dear brothers and sisters, if we are filled with the Holy Spirit then we can rise above things and master human matters.
There is another wonderful occasion where people were filled with the Holy Spirit. This was when the disciples. the Apostles, were heading somewhere. It says that they were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 13: 52)-a nice combination. If we are filled with the Holy Spirit we also have joy.
Beloved, these are all effects of the Holy Spirit. Let us always strive to be filled and to remain filled, with the Holy Spirit. Let me again repeat that this does not happen automatically. Even if we are children of God and have been sealed-whether the Holy Spirit always directs our thoughts and actions is a different matter.
But today is Pentecost, the day on which the Holy Spirit was poured out. Let us all utilise this day that the power of the Holy Spirit can fill us anew, that effects become evident. Let me repeat:
There is then special insight and understanding, and secondly there is also the power to overcome, and thirdly we master that which is earthly, and fourthly there is joy within us that we are children of God.
That is my message to God’s people on this day of Pentecost. May the Lord grant us all the fulness of His blessing so that we can also be recognised as those who are blessed by the Lord and that the Lord can soon bring His work to completion.
I am happy that a number of District Apostles are with me, and I would like to call on one or the other to serve us as far as time permits. District Apostle Studer from Switzerland is among us.
District Apostle Armin Studer:
My dear brothers and sisters, here in our beautiful church in Tafelsig and in all the congregations connected by transmission. I am very glad and touched to be here and to experience this festive divine service. I am very thankful to our heavenly Father and to our dear Chief Apostle for this lovely invitation. And I must admit that I love South Africa. And of course I love you. When we are invited, we normally bring a gift. But what can we bring to our heavenly Father? The most precious gift is our heart and when we can confirm that we are of those who believe.
Dear brothers and sisters, after this rich and motivating ministering of our Chief Apostle, we can certainly say: “We are filled with the Holy Spirit and full of joy?’ But, dear brothers and sisters, permit me a question. How is it tomorrow? Is it the same? This being filled with the Holy Spirit, this joy, must last. And what can we do that it lasts? We must occupy ourselves with the Word. It is important that we speak about the Word in our families and among our friends. Perhaps we should even write down four or five important thoughts. And let us pray, “Heavenly Father, let these thoughts not only be lodged in our memory but also deep in our heart?”
I would like to compare our Chief Apostle’s thoughts today to a beautiful strand of pearls. And this strand of pearls should adorn our hearts from today on. Let us consider two or three of these pearls again. We heard that they were in accord with each other (cf. Acts 1: 14); there was unity among them. Let us ask ourselves honestly: How is it in your family with unity, in the congregation, among the ministers, in the choir or orchestra? Should we find unity lacking there let us do everything in our power to establish unity from today onwards. An Apostle said once: “It is better to bear injustice than to endanger unity?’ And in such unity a miracle of Pentecost can still take place today.
Another pearl was prayer. The place was shaken. This does not mean that we should pray in such a manner that there is an earthquake. But let us pray such that the heart of our heavenly Father is moved. And such prayers have an effect and result in miracles of Pentecost. And a third pearl. The Chief Apostle spoke of Stephen. We read of him: “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin'” (Acts 7: 60). If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, if our soul is filled with joy we are able to forgive each other and reconcile. And this is also a miracle of Pentecost. And therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, let us be filled with the Holy Spirit and never draw back but believe and save our souls.
District Apostle Richard Freund:
My very dear brothers and sisters, our Chief Apostle prayed in the sacristy and he very simply asked that we would experience something wonderful this morning. I cannot speak for you, but I can speak for myself and say it was an overwhelming experience that I cannot really put into words. When he gave us that godly admonition not to draw back, I wondered how that is possible. We are all human, after all. But it is possible if something transpires in the soul.
If our soul is trembling then the Holy Spirit can work. If we tremble at the thought that we are children of God, if we tremble at the thought that the Lord leads us through His servants then it is the Holy Spirit who is at work. And we are filled with that Spirit. It affects and controls us.
And then that which our Chief Apostle laid into our hearts will not be forgotten, will not be pushed aside, will not be over-looked. But it will live in us and motivate and inspire us. And when we come to next Pentecost, should Christ not have returned before then, then we will see that this Word had a tremendous effect in our life.
Chief Apostle Leber:
My dear brothers and sisters, I think you are happy to hear so many different District Apostles. They come from all corners of the globe, but all are under the regency of one Spirit. District Apostle Schumacher from northern Germany can serve us now. And we would like to hear the choir again.
District Apostle Karlheinz Schumacher:
… The Chief Apostle said that I come from northern Germany. And northern Germany borders the sea: the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. It is also the case there that we have many storms. We don’t have rocks there but flat land, and people made great endeavours to reclaim land from the sea. But that was not the end of it: the storms remained. And then the people decided to protect the coast with dikes. Had they not built the dikes they would have had to move.
Dear brothers and sisters, even now, after many years, the dikes are still being fortified and increased in height. And where this was not done the people really had to go away, because the storms were strong and some of the dikes broke. So people endeavoured to increasingly fortify the dikes.
I would like to apply this picture to us. The storms in our time of the various spiritual powers are still just as strong. And we must build “dikes”. And these are the “dikes” of the fear of God, the “dikes” of faith and confidence in God, and the “dikes” of following those sent by God. Then we are safe. After all, dear brothers and sisters, we do not want the sea to reclaim the land which was gained from the sea. Our souls have been made the property of God and we want to remain with Him. And if a dike has become weak or has broken then we don’t just stand there and look at it. At home we then take sacks and fill them with sand and cover the breaches with it. And one helps the other so that all are saved.
Dear brothers and sisters, may our fear of God and our trust and confidence in God increase and become stronger so that we are protected. And then we will be preserved and will not have to shrink back. And then that will be fulfilled which we heard here: We will be brought to perfection and will be with the Lord for all eternity.
Chief Apostle Leber:
Dear brothers and sisters, we have heard the word of God. It did our soul good. Let it accompany us into the future. Let us take it with us: Don’t draw back and let us always be filled with the Holy Spirit. We can pray for this. One of the District Apostles spoke of a strand of pearls. May our prayers always be such a pearl. When the congregation prayed at that time the earth was shaken. The point is that the heart of our heavenly Father is moved. I ask you: Can you still pray Iike that? I know how it is. We are subject to various influences and not every prayer equally intensive. This is also the case with me. But we must examine ourselves every often and ask ourselves what we ate doing wrong. Perhaps we have to occupy ourselves even more with the Word. Perhaps we have to take even more time. If we pray in a hurry it will not work properly. Let us have a very intensive prayer-life. This will give us the strength so that the Holy Spirit can work within us.
Now we will turn to Holy Communion. And I am very moved when I think that all of us will now pray the Lord’s Prayer together, that we will experience the forgiveness of our sins together, and that we will celebrate Holy Communion together. May this be associated with a special feeling of being very close to God. Let us again be aware though that we are sinners. Isaiah once said: -Our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isaiah 64:6)
This shows the effect of sin. You are blown back and forth by the spirits like leaves in the wind. And there is no stability in our heart. And that is why it is so important to experience the forgiveness of sins so that we don’t become a plaything of the spirits, but that we are standing on a firm foundation and that the Holy Spirit can then be active within us.
And Holy Communion should bond as together. May this be an impetus for a warm and wonderful fellowship together. We also heard that the ability to forgive is an effect of the Holy Spirit. So if the Holy Spirit can really be active within us it will not be difficult for us to extend our hand in reconciliation. And this is the prerequisite that a warm and strong congregation and fellowship can exist. May this also be the case today.
Date: Sunday, 4 June 2006
Location: Tafelsig church, Cape Town, South Africa
District Apostle area: Noel Barnes
Text: Acts 4: 31
“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
Opening hymn: “Filled with truth and life, 0 Spirit” (International Hymn Booklet 82)
Apostles: District Apostles Noel Barnes and Johann Kitching from South Africa, Richard Freund from the USA,
Michael Ehrich and Karlheinz Schumacher from Germany, Charles Ndandula from Zambia, and Armin Studer from Switzerland, as well as all South African Apostles
Called to serve: District Apostles Studer, Freund, and Schumacher
Acts: Holy Communion for the departed
Translations: At altar into English by Ronald Hume, and simultaneously into more than 20 other languages
Transmission: To 60 countries on all five continents
Attendance: 1.7 million people in nearly 8,000 churches
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