Lecture on “Life of a Christian rooted in Christ”
By Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President of The Inkatha Freedom Party
St Faith’s, Durban: 22 September 2018
The Rector of St Faith’s, the Reverend Canon Dumisani Shezi; Assistant Priests; our Deacon and Church Wardens; Mrs Mtshali and the team that leads Iviyo Lofakazi BakaKristu; members of the congregation and witnesses of Christ.
I greet you in the name of our Lord and Saviour, in whom there is no shadow of turning.
I feel privileged this morning to express my congratulations to Iviyo Lofakazi BakaKristu in celebration of its 70th anniversary. This guild is close to my heart, as it was founded by Bishop Alphaeus Zulu and the Venerable Canon Philip Mbatha, both of whom were good friends of mine, and spiritual guides to me in my long pilgrimage.
I will never forget how hard I tried to maintain my composure at both their funerals. But both times I broke down and wept.
Four years before the founding of Iviyo Lofakazi BakaKristu, the Right Reverend Alphaeus Zulu prepared me for confirmation right here at St Faith’s. Bishop Zulu’s commitment to Christ had an enormous impact on me and I often sought his wisdom and guidance in the years that followed. We became lifelong friends. He became my mentor in both spiritual matters and in the affairs of the world.
Years later, in 1963, I was privileged to attend the Anglican Congress in Toronto, Canada, as a lay delegate representing the Zululand Diocese. I accompanied Archdeacon Philip Mbatha and our then Diocesan Bishop Thomas Savage. En route back to South Africa, we visited several parishes in Chicago, where Zululand, the poorest diocese in the world, had a companionship.
It was these two remarkable servants of the Lord, Bishop Zulu and Archdeacon Mbatha, who saw the need to establish a guild for Christian witnesses, in 1948. The hand of the Lord was surely in it, for that guild remains active and influential 70 years later.
The emergence of Iviyo in 1948 was wonderful to me. I was envious when Christians of other denominations filled marquees, preaching the word of the Lord to thousands of people. Worshipping ceases to be just like going to a ritual when we share with other Believers how to be rooted in Christ. This is what Iviyo did as far as I am concerned. Although my life was such that I could not myself partake in the evangelical activities of Iviyo, I supported the mission of Iviyo to the extent that I paid for a tent when one of our Priests appealed to me for one. I must not continue with what I am saying without also paying tribute to Bishop Ndwandwe for writing a tome on Iviyo Lofakazi. This made my heart to dance when this book was published as Bishop Ndwandwe is one of our erudite Shepherds who holds a doctorate. This dealt with the arrogance of some of our Anglicans who sort of looked down on the great evangelical work of Iviyo. There were some who somehow felt that one cannot be a staid Anglican if one is involved in evangelical work. I know no greater evangelist than Christ himself. And therefore I cannot see that we can be rooted in Christ if we do not walk in His footsteps. Christ’s life was that evangelising day in and day out. Iviyo taught us how to be rooted in Christ on a daily basis.
I want to thank this generation of witnesses who are taking the work of the guild further. You are building on good foundations. I am reminded of Christ’s words in Matthew chapter 7, when He said –
“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Iviyo Lofakazi BakaKristu has remained a part of this ministry through tremendously trying times within our nation. The storms have beaten against us, and still this ministry stands. It is clear that you have heard the words of the Lord, and are doing them. I pray that you will experience a double portion of His blessing in the years ahead so that you might continue to build His Kingdom in South Africa.
I am grateful to spend a few moments with you this morning, for I know that my spirit will be refreshed as I fellowship with such wonderful servants of the Lord. Unfortunately I will not be able to stay for the full celebration, as I have other commitments.
So when I was asked to speak this morning on the theme “The Life of a Christian Rooted in Christ”, I knew that I would have a lot to say!
I have been privileged to know Jesus for some 80 years, for I learned about Him at my mother’s knee. My mother, Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu, was an acclaimed musician and a steadfast Christian. She followed the instruction of St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, when he said: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There was always a song on my mother’s lips. She knew many of the Psalms of King David off by heart and set them to music. As I listened, I learned about the character of God, but also about the character of a man whose life was rooted in relationship with God. King David was called a man after God’s own heart.
Yet King David was by no means perfect. The story of his greatest failing begins in 2 Samuel, Chapter 11 with these words: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army… But David remained in Jerusalem.” This is where the trouble started. King David was not where he was meant to be.
We then read that one night he got up from his bed and went for a walk around the roof of the palace. That sounds very like a man who cannot sleep. Isn’t it true that when you are not where you are meant to be, doing what you are meant to be doing, there is no peace? You feel restless. So King David, feeling restless, got up and went for a walk. It was then that he spotted a woman bathing.
Did he quickly avert his eyes and walk in the other direction? No, King David had a good enough look to realise that she was beautiful and he first sent someone to find out who she was, then sent someone to fetch her – despite knowing that she was married.
This series of bad decisions led King David to commit adultery, and then to commit murder, for he had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite, placed on the frontlines of a fierce battle to ensure that he would be killed.
When the news came of Uriah’s death, Bathsheba and David did all the right things. Bathsheba mourned for her husband, and when the time of mourning was over, King David married her and she bore him a son. So everything seemed to become respectable again.
“But,” the Bible says, “the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
The Lord sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke King David. Immediately the King responded with remorse and repentance. The Lord forgave him; but because the penalty of sin is death, the son whom Bathsheba had born fell ill and died.
I have chosen this passage because it covers so much of what we need to know about a life rooted in Christ. It begins by showing that even believers who are strong in faith can fall in terrible ways. We tend to think that if someone has reached a certain position in life, or has done some amazing things in the past, they cannot possibly go wrong. This was the same David, after all, who slayed Goliath. He was a King; God’s chosen one.
But this is why the Bible instructs us in James, Chapter 5, to confess our sins to each another and to pray for each other. If we let our sins build up in secret, our little sins give birth to greater sins. As James wrote, we are dragged away by our own desires. “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death”.
How different would it have been if King David had seen Bathsheba, and immediately looked away, called a friend and confessed his desire? Instead, he walked deeper and deeper into trouble. And how different would it have been if a friend had seen David’s struggle with temptation and asked him about it?
James goes on to say, “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”
This tells us how we should live as Christians.
The next lesson we learn from King David is that we cannot put things right through our own efforts. Even when he had married Bathsheba and made everything seem respectable, the Lord knew what he had done. Moreover, there were some people close to David who also knew; like Joab, who had been instructed to place Bathsheba’s husband in the way of death; and the servants who were sent to fetch Bathsheba, knowing that she was married.
Our own sin often causes others to stumble in their faith, because they look to us for an example of Christian behaviour. Consider how quickly a church falls apart when the pastor is exposed as having stolen money or committed adultery. So many Christians, new in the faith, fall away when they see a mature Christian’s sin. And so many who are considering Christianity are put off by what they perceive as hypocrisy.
We can’t cover up our sin. We need to confess, repent, and turn away from sin. This is the example we need to give as Christians, so that we will be true witnesses of Christ.
When King David was confronted with his own sin, he didn’t try to make excuses. He immediately accepted responsibility and repented. It was this that made him a man after God’s own heart. We can hear his sorrow and real contrition in the Psalms. When David sinned against God, it cut him deeply. He valued his relationship with the Lord.
I feel I must say a few words about the death of David’s son, because it is hard to accept that the Lord forgave David, yet still required his son’s death. The law of sin and death is immutable. It cannot be circumvented. All of this took place in Old Testament times, before the birth, death and resurrection of Christ.
But when Christ came, He said, “Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” This is in Matthew 5, verse 17. Christ Jesus fulfilled the law, setting us free. This is why we cannot earn our salvation, because we cannot possible fulfil every requirement, all the time. Rather, we are saved by grace; by believing that Christ has taken upon Himself the punishment for all our sins.
This is, indeed, the good news. For us as believers who are rooted in Christ, we need have no fear of condemnation. God does not condemn us. No matter how far we fall short of what we should be and do and say, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Does this mean we are free to do and say whatever we please? Not at all. As St Paul tell us in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 6: “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.”
This is why we have such a comprehensive instruction manual: the Bible. As it says in 2 Timothy, Chapter 3: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man (or woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Ultimately, the life of a Christian rooted in Christ must be lived in constant interaction with the word of God. A sinner that I am, I no longer find it possible for me to go to bed before treading some scripture, and to drink from that ever flowing spring, my Bible.
When Christ taught His disciples how to pray, His simple prayer included these words: “Give us this day our daily bread”. If we think back to the Israelites, when they fled from Egypt, we remember that God sent them manna in the desert to sustain them. But if we read Exodus Chapter 16, we discover that the manna provided for one day could not be kept overnight for the next day. Each day, the Lord provided enough for the day.
In the same way, we can’t live on yesterday’s spiritual nourishment and expect to thrive. We need spiritual nourishment every day. And because we can’t come to church every day to be fed by our Rector, we need to feed ourselves at home. This is how a Christian grows.
I urge you, therefore, to remain in the Word. If we are to be witnesses of Christ, we need to know all about Him. But more than that, we need to know Him. Our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the greatest tool we have for expanding the Kingdom. Never doubt the power of your testimony.
Throughout my own life, I have spoken publically about my faith. I realise that I am held to a higher standard for my conduct, my words and my decisions, because they reflect on the Church and on Christianity. But the Lord has made me into a light, and you don’t put a light under a basket. You put it on a lampstand where everyone can see, so that it might give light to many.
If my life has given light to others, I feel I have lived well. I am a Christian rooted in Christ. I acknowledge every time that I am a sinner saved only by God’s grace.
With these words, I wish to congratulate Iviyo Lofakazi BakaKristu once again on the celebration of 70 years. May the Lord continue to bless this ministry so that many more will become witnesses of Christ.
I thank you.