Back to Jesus
“We must be careful to ensure that this does not happen to us,” appealed Chief Apostle Schneider. A sermon about pitfalls that is nevertheless encouraging — and not only for ministers.
On Sunday, 17 November 2019, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider conducted a divine service for ministers in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Given that the service followed on the heels of the International District Apostle Meeting, the international Church leader was accompanied by all fifteen District Apostles and eight District Apostle Helpers. For his sermon, which was transmitted throughout the congregations of Europe, he chose a Bible text from Luke 22: 31-32: “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
“We see to it that we do not distance ourselves from the Lord”
This was the repeated plea that Chief Apostle Schneider expressed in the divine service. As Christians, remaining with the Lord means that we must not allow trials and temptations to make us uncertain, but instead stay humble, keep trusting in God, and continue following and serving Jesus Christ. And the Chief Apostle illustrated this by way of some practical examples.
Believe without worrying. “Jesus had called His disciples. He wanted them to be His helpers, and had entrusted them with a special duty,” he explained. “He worked with them, and had even announced that which the future would bring, namely that He would have to suffer, that He would be arrested and tortured, and that He would have to die.” And Jesus had also pointed out that this would cause uncertainty in many, and constitute an attack on their faith. But Jesus also assured them: “Do not be worried. I am praying for you. Your faith is not to fail. You will be in a position to carry out your duty until the end,” said Chief Apostle Schneider.
Remaining with the Lord in confidence. It is clear that “people are increasingly distancing themselves from Jesus.” But “the Lord already foretold long ago that we would be exposed to temptations before His coming, and that we would have to fight. The evil one attacks our relationship with Jesus Christ. What counts is to trust in the gospel and to trust in God and His Son.”
Listening to Jesus: After Jesus announced that He would be arrested, tortured, and killed, Peter was visibly irritated. “He did not want to acknowledge this. He was so convinced of His own conception that He completely ignored Jesus Christ, who had clearly stated that things would go badly for Him.” By way of his own assessment of the situation, he had distanced himself a little from Jesus Christ. And today? It is all well and good to speak on the basis of our conviction of faith, but “our own preaching must never become more important than the gospel.” It is important to verify again and again: “What is Jesus saying today? How can we apply the gospel in society today, in today’s realities and circumstances?”
Measuring success properly. “What can we do to be successful? Nothing! We are only to do that which God tells us. That is our duty, namely to carry out the will of God. But the question of who is to receive salvation, and how, when, and where—that is a matter for God to decide. We do not have any say in this.”
Remaining awake and active. In Gethsemane, Peter, John, and James were sad and tired—and ultimately fell asleep. “We too are sad when we see how the Church in Europe is developing, when we see the difficulties there are in the congregations. At times we just stand there helplessly and no longer understand anything anymore.” It is then that we run the risk of failing to take our duty as seriously as we should. “Let us go back to Jesus! He has called us, and He is the one whom we are to serve!” said Chief Apostle Schneider in encouragement.
Focussing on our mission. In Europe the number of believers is on the decline, and there are many different opinions about what we should do about it: “Let us go back to our tradition,” or “Let us become more serious and strict,” or “Let us become even more relaxed and adapted to the circumstances, let us follow those who are successful: more music, more prayers for money, health, and miracles!” But, said the Chief Apostle, “Why do we have a ministry? Because the Lord has sent the Apostles. ‘Teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you. Make them disciples’—not members to fill the church benches. He has given the Apostles the commission: “Prepare the bride! I am coming quickly!”
Not allowing ourselves to be discouraged. The last step was very difficult for Peter, said Chief Apostle Schneider as he recalled the circumstances of the time: Peter denied Jesus. He did not fall into unbelief, but he did detach himself from Him. “He was simply afraid for himself. That is the greatest danger, namely when our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ is attacked,” said the Chief Apostle. We can also experience this situation here and there today: sometimes we are a little tired, sometimes a little disappointed, sometimes we no longer understand God or the world. “Back to Jesus! We have promised the Lord that we would follow Him to the end!”
The conclusion of the Chief Apostle: “That which the Lord Jesus said to Peter, he also tells us: ‘Do not worry unnecessarily. I am praying for you. I will also see to it that the Apostles and their helpers will be able to fulfil their mission till the end.’ That is a matter for Jesus Christ. All we have to do is ensure that no distance arises between us and Him, and that we do not overestimate ourselves. He is the Lord and Master, and we are servants. We do what He tells us.”