Good relationships for our inner life

Finding the right connection with God and our neighbour and taking care of God’s creation. This was the counsel in a recent service by the Chief Apostle. The emphasis is on networking, motivation, and comfort.

On Sunday, 20 December Chief Apostle Schneider conducted a divine service in Dortmund in Germany, using Hebrews 4: 1 as Bible text: “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.” Brothers and sisters from the Portuguese-speaking part of District Apostle Rainer Storck’s working area joined the online service.

God does not give up

The letter to the Hebrews refers to the story of creation, the Chief Apostle said in his opening words. “When God had created everything He rested. This day of rest was to demonstrate: now everything is finished, everything is perfect.” And that was true in more than one sense: “The first human beings had fellowship with God, they had the intended relationship with God.” Even their relationship with each other was perfect. “Adam and Eve had both been made in the image of God, were of equal nature and dignity; they were completely dependent upon one another, and complemented each other. Neither sought to dominate the other.”

Finally, the relationship between man and creation was also a success. “The earth provided for man’s needs, and man worked with it and preserved it in the mind of God,” the Chief Apostle said. Shortly afterwards, the fall into sin destroyed this perfection and harmony.

Amazing comfort

God sent His Son at the time and will send Him again. “To me this word is tremendous and amazing comfort: ‘…since a promise remains of entering His rest’. The Lord will return. He will fulfil His promise. He has not given up on mankind!” All the objections and circumstances have not changed the fact that “this promise still exists for every single one of us, but we have to trust in God. We must believe that the Lord will return, we must believe in the Redeemer”.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews makes reference to the situation of the people of Israel before their conquest of Canaan. They allowed themselves to be discouraged. “And indeed: they could not enter. They stayed behind because they had had no confidence in God” (cf. Numbers 14: 30). Scripture admonishes us to not take this preparation lightly. “The Lord Jesus showed through many parables who may have to stay behind or who must stay behind,” the Chief Apostle said.

Like a student who goes to school

In the course of his sermon, the Chief Apostle cited well-known examples: the servant who was convinced that his master would not return for a long time and enjoyed life to the full (Matthew 24: 48); or the foolish virgins who had not taken enough oil with them and were not ready when the bridegroom came. The latter is an image that still plays out today: believers who come to service “as if they are going to a concert; when they have time and feel like it”. Or people who come to the services “as soon as they need God. But if they don’t need Him they stay home”. Chief Apostle Schneider exhorted the congregations: “We should go to the divine services like a student goes to school: because we are preparing ourselves and because we want to develop.”

However, simply participating in divine services is not enough; this is shown by the examples of the Lord Jesus when He spoke of those who had been rejected. “Merely eating and drinking with the Lord is not enough. Following a tradition is not enough. There must be an inner development.” There is a second group whom the Lord also rejected: those who had done good and who relied on this. “Why? Because their heart’s attitude was not right. It is not merely a question of doing good and serving the Lord, no: we also have to have the right heart’s attitude.”

Investing in the future and in relationships

And what is the proper attitude? “The attitude of a servant. Let us do God’s will,” Chief Apostle Schneider said. “That is the proper relationship with God: seeking grace, trusting, and serving.” And that also characterises our relationship with our neighbour and how we relate to material things. “God wants us to love our neighbour as He loves him. This love means, above all, that we want our neighbour to obtain salvation, just as we want to obtain salvation. – Let us have the proper relationship to God’s creation. Let us deal with the resources of this earth in the spirit of God and exercise our responsibility in this area. We need the material goods, but this should not affect our heart’s attitude or our relationship with God and our neighbour.”

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Oliver Rütten
Chief Apostle, Divine service