10 Hearing a sermon; “ MOST ASSUREDLY — UNLESS ONE IS BORN AGAIN, HE CAN NOT SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD” (John 3 v 3).
(10) Hearing a sermon; “ MOST ASSUREDLY — UNLESS ONE IS BORN AGAIN, HE CAN NOT SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD” (John 3 v 3).
Would you, the reader, allow me at this stage to tell you how I became a farmer; then a missionary and a farmer; now in ripe age, only a missionary.
In high school I was pretty lazy, preferring, during prep time, to rather read a comic under the table edge than to do my homework (how stupid a human can be). My mind was also unable to sort out that there was the farm waiting for me; as well as my aging parents to look after. At that time we were still living in an age when parents were cared for at home. Nowadays they are so often “pushed off” into an old age home. There are also families where such ‘cat and dog’ conditions prevail in the home, or between children and their parents, that the parents prefer to go to an old age home. Usually those are also the families that are unsuccessful in life: there is no blessing.
My main interest was to become a mechanic. Then I noticed that the mechanics of that time were usually boys who had dropped out of school before grade 12; so I considered becoming a lawyer. Of that my mother disapproved; saying: “lawyers do a horrible work, they prove bad guys guiltless”. It did not dawn on her that they also need to defend the guiltless from the bad guys.
Somehow I passed grade 12 reasonably well at school end.
After some time on a farm I did two years in a trading store and was then offered employment as a manager of three farms (for which I was really still too young at that time). The three farms were on much more level ground, far better situated ; near town and a railway station; than my father’s two were. That resulted in far more intensive farming, with agriculture, dairy, forest and a beef heard of red brown “Afrikander” cattle with fairly long horns. (Also pigs with the dairy).
The owner of the farms where I became manager was a missionary’s son. My grandfather came out to South Africa in 1883 as a farmer with the missionaries from northern Germany. It was from about 40 km south of Hamburg where they were experiencing a revival at that time under a teacher and minister, Louis Harms.
As a third generation, I considered; that to be a Christian; involved being infant Christened (baptized) and going to church most of the Sundays. Over time many members seemed to have changed that line of thought to: “some Sundays”.
As I had grown up being taught honesty, and had a good interest in mechanical work as well as in farming and in trading; I was in good standing with the employer (where I worked) and also with his family.
It was then that I heard a preacher preach; that he went onto a mountain to seek God and that there he had an experience. He was certain that God met with him and he was “born again”. He also read out of the Bible that to enter the kingdom of God, it is necessary for a believer to be born again. He must have mentioned forgiveness of sin also; whichever way; I became aware that it involves not to sin, and that bothered me, as I was sinking deeper and deeper into self gratification, of which I thought smoking must be the most impossible to “give up”.
I had managed the farms for four years and some months and I was earning a salary plus a percentage of the profits. Then on a certain day, as I was travelling along a straight stretch of road just opposite the main farm (of the three) a thought came to me: You have begun to condone your sinful lifestyle by arguing that there cannot be a hell; what if there is a hell; even if the chances of there being one are; one to a thousand; or even one in a million; can you; I afford to take that risk?
My answer was: No! Because it is, or will be for all eternity; so I prayed to God that if He would help me to stop smoking; “then I will serve you Lord”. Little did I realize that I was making God a promise.
Nor did I realize that He would answer within a few days. It also did not occur to me that there is hardly a sin we can overcome on our own; without Gods’ help. If we suppress a sin it usually lives on in our mind and we have sinful thoughts. May I interrupt with a short story how we can’t overcome a being which is stronger than we ourselves.
It was mentioned already that the one farm (of the three that I managed) had a beef herd. Among those animals were a few large mature but untrained oxen with sharp crescent shaped horns. My boss just loved those and I dared not sell them. He had made his “fortune” by leasing some wagons with their spans of oxen to the British army during the Boer war (at turn of 19-20) century. It so happens that such a mature ox becomes aggressive to other animals and begins poking them, often piercing their skin and seriously injuring them (one of those had killed a cow). The remedy is to use a hack-saw (which is normally used for cutting steel) and to saw off the tip of their horns, thereby making them blunt. Bulls and oxen actually rub their horn-tips against the ground to sharpen them, but once they become too blunt (by the cut-off) they stop trying.
At that time we had not yet constructed a crush-pen where they are in a narrow passage and can’t move much, this way or that. Thinking that I could save time by forcing it into a corner of the square enclosure with the help of a few men and with the pick-up truck; and then to catch its horns with all my might, like handle-bars, while one of the workers saws off the horn-tips. It went reasonably well till I reached out and caught the horns. With one seemingly effortless flip it poked me almost direct under my chin (probably up to the chin-bone/jaw). The scar, though now more felt than seen is (60 years later) still there. That is what happens if we think we are strong; we can do things. It did not even end there; in may-be a second it damaged the front of the pick-up truck and then sprang over the bonnet (leaving a sized dent) and ran away.
That God answered my prayer for help to stop smoking happened as follows; My boss had purchased a new diesel lorry (without consulting with me. I had just spent a small fortune getting the petrol lorry into tip-top order, even fitting longer springs with my own hands to make it more comfortable). In later years they were manufactured with longer springs.
As I was taking the new lorry to Durban (about 150 km away) for its first service; driving early; about three in the morning; and in the mist (fog) I suddenly saw a shining cross ahead. The first thought that came was: What if that is the Lord returning? With a few rapid turns of the handle my window went open and my smoking cigarette flew out; then I realized; it was the sign for a level-crossing over a railway line. The next thought was: Oh, so you can light up again; but somewhere out of the depth of my heart came the warning: what if it was the Lord who planned that! My reply was: I cannot afford to take a chance. That was the end of smoking.
Years later the Lord confirmed that it was His voice; therefore also His planning.
The lesson so far is: Never take chances with matters concerning eternity; always give the Lord the benefit of the doubt.
From that day on it troubled me deep within; that I had made God a promise to serve Him. Not many weeks later, I was in a service in our (my parent’s) traditional church on a Sunday; when the pastor, instead of expounding on the Scripture he had read; became red in the face, condemning another pastor who left the denomination after having a similar experience as the one I had heard; preaching about the need to be born again.
The pastor being condemned had preached this need to be born again; plus a few points that did not match with their doctrine which taught re-birth at christening/baptism. They had hurriedly issued a pamphlet with restrictions. He felt he could not obey such a rule or rules; so he left and began a Bible school. It was a “faith” Bible school; where the students did not pay a fee; but they were all co-responsible to trust God to supply all the needs. He also taught that before God we are not a registered denomination with a membership list; but we work inter-denominationally. However for legal reasons; it soon had to register with a list of its preachers.
As I listened to this highly critical sermon it began to crystallize in my heart that the safest to do would be to apply at that Bible school to become a student there; thus keeping my promise to God. It was a faith-work; you did not pay but carried corporate responsibility to pray for all the needs.
Within a day after hearing the seriously criticizing preacher, I did apply and was miraculously accepted. It was one month short of my twenty-fifth birthday.
Only two weeks were left to give notice at work and a week to spend with my parents before beginning at that School. My boss was furious and from his side I lost the bonus (for a year almost completed). I had taken very little annual leave during those four years and a few months. His family however gave me a ‘thank you’ present wherewith I could buy an elderly used car.
The pastor who was the founder and director of the Bible school had taken a giant step of faith in beginning and in running such an institution.
As a student at the Bible school I took it serious to have the highest aim spiritually (to be as near to God as possible) it had cost me an awfully high price to take the faith step into that direction.
Once again; may I interrupt the testimony; to talk about being near to God.
In the New Testament the Lord himself as well as His followers who authored the NT, quote Scripture which is not found in the canonized Bible; most of it is out of the book of Enoch which did not become one of the books canonized into the Old Testament. The reason could be that the scholars appointed by Justinian (the council of Nicea) to choose the books for the Bible (old and New Testaments; in the early fourth century) probably did not understand or believe that; what Enoch experienced and talks about could actually happen to a human being.
In one chapter Enoch mentions that he and his family lived on a high mountaintop, so near to Heaven, (or to God) that they could hear the angels singing a few meters above them. Further Enoch mentions that his children then went to the edge to watch the children of the world play far below and they began sliding down and could never find the way up again. The Bible tells us that Enoch, “was no more”. So he was the first human being to be taken direct to heaven (to God). Elijah was the second human to be taken up.
An important lesson: If God can do it for two different persons, then for Himself as a person; why should He be unable to do it for more people and why not for me/you also? Now you may be able to form a better idea where and to what conclusion the stories are meant to lead us/you. Let me release another clue: can a human being experience Heaven while still here on earth and then hereafter? We want to hear how it is possible; but Let us rest our minds a little with “a Story” before we consider such an important and serious matter.