Conversion and God's Call
also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their
own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful,
unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce,
despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more
than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such
turn away." 2 Timothy 3:1-5
When God called me
to preach the gospel, I refused. I had other plans and ideas. There were young men of my
age to whom I often said, "I just can't understand you," and I suppose they
couldn't understand me either. When they dated and kissed their girls, I declared,
"I'd rather be making money than doing that." So they dated their girls, while I
tried to earn money, which was of more value to me than girls. My motto was: 'Money first,
the rest later.' But then the Lord Jesus entered my life.
We had a very good
minister who preached better than any other minister we knew. We children had been in the
habit of taking sweets along to church and, as soon as the sermons began, had usually
fallen asleep or eaten our candy. But when this pastor came to us, things changed. His
sermons were interesting and, best of all, very short, a fact which we found especially
pleasant. Furthermore, he was quite understanding towards us children. For instance at
Easter time, when the automobile races usually took place at Pietermaritzburg, we went to
our minister and asked him if he couldn't shorten his sermon so that we could get to the
races on time. He only preached for ten or fifteen minutes, so that we young people all
agreed, "He's the right man for us!"
But in reality this
pastor was a very unhappy person. At the seminary he had achieved better results in his
exams than anyone else before him. A highly gifted man, but without peace in his heart, he
determined to study theology, expecting that all his problems would then be solved. He
spent a long time in Europe and studied there, but even so found no peace. Finally he
decided to return to Africa as a missionary. His professors couldn't understand that and
asked him, "Why should you want to return to Africa? Africa doesn't need a man like
you. Stay here in Europe, don't waste your talents in Africa."
jokingly, "You know, we have many bent bananas in South Africa. I want to try to
straighten them out."
Even after he
returned to his home country his heart remained in a turmoil. To overcome this he worked
so hard that he finally was close to a nervous breakdown and the doctor advised him to
give up his ministry for a while. In desperation he called upon an evangelist in Pretoria.
He had, in fact, a
low opinion of this evangelist because many evil rumours were spread about him.
It is often a good
sign if people talk badly about a person. The Bible says, "Woe unto you, when all men
shall speak well of you" (Luke 6:26).
The devil doesn't
remain silent when God is working through a certain person or at a certain place.
Now, how could a
simple evangelist help such a highly-educated man? This truly believing brother could
pray. While he was speaking to his visitor, he cried out to the Lord in his heart,
"Lord Jesus, I pray that you will break through with your power." As they both
went down on their knees and prayed, the pastor felt a light breaking through. He suddenly
realised that, until now, he had never known the Lord Jesus in his life or in his heart.
In childlike faith he asked the Lord to come into his heart, and it seemed to him like a
miracle that as he got off his knees, he was a changed man with peace in his soul.
From then on his
sermons were different and it was apparent that his life had been transformed.
Then the Lord began
to work in our hearts. We were five brothers. We only went to church because our parents
compelled us to go. I said to myself, "When I'm grown up, I'll throw all this
religious stuff overboard." But God, in His grace, stepped in before I grew up. One
Sunday while I was in church, I became conscious of the fact that I was a great sinner and
that I needed Jesus.
Every time we left
church, we brothers would be arguing even before we got home. I was also often disobedient
towards my parents. I contradicted them time and time again and wanted to have things my
own way. But now God showed me that, in His eyes, this was sin. I wept, and prayed "O
God, in church I pledged in prayers and hymns that I would live for you, but on the way
home I was already arguing. You see my disobedience." I had prayed in the morning, I
prayed in the evening, but my life didn't change. Step by step, though, I had grown all
the more conscious of the fact that I needed Jesus to free me from my sins, from
quarrelsomeness and disobedience towards my parents, if I didn't want to go to hell.
There is no such
thing as small sins and large sins, as many people believe. In the epistle of James,
chapter 2:10 we read, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one
point, he is guilty of all." The Lord says in Matthew 5:21-22, "Ye have heard
that it was said by them of old time, 'Thou shalt not kill!' But I say unto you, that
whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement
and whosoever shall say 'Thou fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire." Jesus will one
day judge the world according to these words! Yes, I was a lost sinner, in spite of the
fact that I said my prayers and went to church. God says, "The soul that sinneth, it
shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). It doesn't matter what nationality a person is, it doesn't
matter if he's black or white, red or yellow. If sin rules in a person's life, that soul
shall die, unless he confesses his sins and forsakes them. Otherwise we are calling God a
liar. I cried to God, "Lord Jesus, I need you! Change my life and save me from my
Shortly after this,
God called me into the ministry. I couldn't recall that there had ever been a preacher or
a missionary in my family line, so how could I become one? I loved money, it was my idol.
If I became a preacher, I would be as poor as the pastors of our church. I was unwilling
to go, the price was too high. So, for eighteen months, I went through hell as I rebelled
against God. I prayed, "God, I can't pay that price, it's asking too much." But
after those eighteen months, God made it clear to me that the price of disobedience is a
thousand times greater than that of obedience. I wouldn't wish for anybody to go through
what I went through.
At the end of this
time of indecision, I finally prayed, "All right Lord, I will become a preacher of
the gospel - on one condition: I don't want to be a preacher who entertains people on
Sundays for an hour or two, who just baptises, marries and buries them. That isn't enough.
I want to become a preacher who preaches the truth, I don't want to play church. It has
cost me too much."
I was still quite
young when I gave my life to the Lord. I had never been a bookworm; indeed I hated reading
books. At school, reading was always a burden to me, but after Jesus came into my life, I
loved reading the Bible, and it became my most precious book. Then I did something else.
My brothers owned many worldly books and pictures of girls. I knew that these were an
abomination to the Lord Jesus, so without their knowledge, I gathered all their books
together, threw them into the fire and burned them.
I became engrossed
in the Bible more and more. Whenever I was invited to visit friends with my family, I
sought an excuse to stay at home alone, because then I could read the Word of God, I could
pray and I could sing. In school I had never sung, but had always explained to the
teachers that I was incapable of singing. Yet now I could hardly stop singing. I also
began learning one chapter in the Bible after the other by heart, for instance John 15 and
John 17. The promises in the Bible were so wonderful and precious to me, I was especially
impressed by the passage in John 15:7, "If ye abide in me and my words abide in you,
ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." I thought to myself,
"Here is greater wealth than money. It is greater than anything the world can give
us. If such a life is possible, a life in which we receive anything we ask for, (even if
this were the only promise in the Bible!) how much more precious this would be than all
the treasures of the world. What is the life of a person like who can pray and his prayers
are answered? There could be nothing to compare with it." All these thoughts filled
I already knew what
the world had to offer. There was a huge dance hall at our home where parties,
engagements, and weddings took place. All the folks living in our area would gather there.
So it wasn't as if I didn't know the world. I knew what it meant when people boozed and
danced until the early hours of the morning. All this was done although we considered
ourselves good Christians and never missed the church services. But when Jesus came into
our lives, we lost all pleasure in such things and were only interested in Him and His
word. All the many promises of the Bible became dearer to us than anything the world could
Again and again I
read John 14:12, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works
that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto my
Father." Then I would search all the gospels to see what Jesus had said and done. I
would pray and ask, "O Lord Jesus, didn't you make a mistake?" I would read
again the passage in John 14:12, "...the works that I do shall he do also." And
the Lord Jesus didn't stop there. He said we would do greater things, because He was going
to the Father. I often reflected on this passage for days. Even in my dreams these words
would occupy my thoughts. I would ask myself, "Is such a thing possible? Does that
include me, for I do believe in the Lord Jesus." In the end I couldn't but accept
Jesus' words. His promise was meant for everyone who believed in Him, and therefore for me
as well. I should do what Jesus did and not only that, but greater things. Not because I
was something special, but because He has gone to the Father.
I can't recount all
the promises that had become especially precious to me in those days. I shall only mention
one more of the many. In John 16:24 the Lord Jesus says, "Hitherto have ye asked
nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." It is not
necessary for us to obtain joy from the things of this world. We can receive complete joy
by asking for it in Jesus' name.
calling to the ministry I often prayed, "Lord Jesus, if I am to preach the gospel,
then I want to preach like you." The Lord Jesus didn't just preach in the synagogues,
so I saw myself not only preaching indoors but out in the open as well.
After I had
completed my training, the Lord Jesus did something completely unexpected. He showed me
that I should not only preach to the whites, but also to the black people, to the Zulus.
This was most extraordinary to me because, before my conversion, I was of the opinion that
blacks weren't equal to us whites. Until then, I couldn't imagine that blacks had the same
feelings and thoughts as whites. Today, I am ashamed of the attitude I used to have. Most
of my time since then has been spent with blacks, I have lived among them, and that which
I had previously so rejected I came to accept when Jesus came into my life.
couldn't speak Zulu, much less preach in Zulu, because I had never wasted time with this
language and wasn't even interested in these black people, whom I despised. But because of
my love for Jesus I overcame my dislike and was prepared to go.
The Struggle Against Powers of Darkness-
In God's Service Without Authority
I was a missionary
for twelve years before the revival broke out. I preached straight from the heart,
although I knew pastors who didn't. Some of them stated that you needed to be careful what
you preached, because, if you preached the truth, people might possibly walk out of the
church. But I said to the Zulus, "Repent and change your lives. If you don't, you're
on your way to hell."
Then the Zulus
would respond, "We hear what you say, but you've got to understand:- Christianity is
the white man's religion. We Zulus have our own religion. You are a Christian because your
forefathers were Christians. If you had been born into a Zulu family, you would be like
is good, and we've profited considerably from Western civilisation. You've built churches
and schools for us, but Christianity is just not enough. We also wish to hold on to our
traditions, we want to retain our ancestral worship. Even if we are Christians we must
take our sick children to the witch doctor to find out why the child is ill and who has
cast a spell to make it sick."
has died, we must celebrate a feast for the departed in order to bring back and worship
his spirit, because the spirit of a deceased person inhabits a snake's body. It is our
custom to take a 'mancishane' (small beer jug) and a piece of meat during the feast and
set them before the spirits of the dead." (This is usually done in a special place at
the back wall of a Zulu hut).
I strove to make
clear to them that ancestral worship was demonic and that we didn't need any such things
if we had Jesus, but they explained to me in their own way that, for them, Christianity
was like water that one pours on a fire: it kills the flame, but the glowing embers
remain. That is why they wished to keep their old traditions, which, in their opinion,
penetrated to the root of the matter. My attempts to demonstrate to them that it suffices
if you have Jesus were all in vain.
One day I prayed
earnestly, "O Lord, please be with me today when I hold the service. Grant me wisdom
and the power of your Holy Spirit. Give me your word and the authority to convince these
Zulus that you are not just the white man's God, but the Son of God who died for all
mankind, who rose again and ascended into heaven."
I worked out my
sermon very carefully, beginning in the Old Testament with what the prophets had foretold
regarding the coming of Jesus Christ. Isaiah, (who lived six hundred years before the
Messiah was born), prophesied the virgin birth. I told the Zulus how all these promises
had come to fulfilment, and how the Lord Jesus had eventually died on the cross for our
sins and rose again so that we should have life.
I said to them,
"We don't need to worship Mohammed. We can go to his grave where his bones still lie.
We don't need Buddha. He died and that was the end. Those are dead gods. But Jesus is a
living God. His grave is empty because He rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and
all power in heaven and on earth is given unto Him. There is no other name given among men
by which we can be saved other than the name of Jesus. For all men, independent of the
colour of their skin, there is only one way: Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and
the life. He does not change, He is the same today as He was two thousand years ago. Just
as people came to Him then, we can come to Him today as well."
I had hardly
finished my sermon, when an old woman came up to me and asked, "Mfundisi (Pastor), is
it true what you told us?"
"Yes," I replied."
Is Jesus, the white man's God, really alive, just as you said?"
"Can you speak with Him?"
"Of course. You can speak to Him too. That's what we call prayer. Everybody can
"Oh," she said, "I am so glad that I have found one person who serves the
living God. I have a grown-up daughter who is completely mad. Could you please ask your
God to heal her?"
I didn't know what
to say. What a fool I had been! I thought I had been cornering these people, but instead,
I had cornered myself without even leaving a loophole. How should I get myself out of this
awkward situation? I couldn't just ask God to heal the girl. What should be done now, what
could I do? I had here a simple-minded heathen woman before me. If she had at least been
an intelligent person, I could have asked her: "Are you sure that it is God's will
that your daughter should be healed?" or "Might this not be the cross you have
to bear?" or "Is it God's time that He should heal her now?" The Bible
addresses such problems as the cross that we must bear, submitting to God's will, and
appointed times which the Lord lays down. But if I wanted to explain all that to this
simple-minded heathen woman she would only become confused. So I was at a loss, and didn't
know what to do. I remained quite calm outwardly, not betraying my perplexity, and finally
asked the woman, "Where is your daughter? Is she here?"
"No, she is at
That was a bit of a
relief. I thought that if I could only gain some time, I would most certainly think of
something. "Where do you live?"
"Not so far
away, about one kilometre."
"Can we get
there by car?"
then we must walk."
just give me some time. I'll finish here, and then I'll come with you."
On the way there,
she told me that she was a widow and that her husband had passed away four years
previously. She had only this one daughter, and a married son who was working in Durban.
When we arrived at her home, I looked into the hut and cried out in dismay, "But you
didn't tell me half of what I see here!"
In the middle of
the hut I saw a girl sitting on the floor, her arms bound to the centre pole with wire.
The wire had cut deeply into her flesh, so that blood was flowing down, and she was
covered with scars and wounds. Some of these had healed, but others were still fresh. She
pulled at the wire with such vehemence that it cut deeply into her arms. She spoke
incessantly in foreign languages, and at times it was not possible to determine which
language it was.
"How long has
she been bound like this?" I asked her mother.
"For the past
three weeks she has been talking non-stop, day and night. She does not eat anything and
she does not sleep. We bring her food, but she takes the plate and throws it against the
"But why don't
you use something softer to tie her up? It's cruel, to bind her with that wire."
tried everything else. She breaks the strongest ropes, then she runs around and we can't
catch her. She gets into the neighbour's fields and gardens and pulls out the cabbage, the
maize and the other vegetables. She destroys everything. The people are afraid of her and
the men take their sticks, beat her and set their dogs on her. Often she runs into the
mountains and doesn't come back." The woman looked at me, and with tears in her eyes
she asked me, "Can you imagine what it means to a mother's heart, to have such a
She continued with
her story: "The girl tears her clothing to shreds and runs around naked. She is very
dangerous. There is a man here who has a big scar where he was bitten by her. When she
bites someone she won't let go until somebody else comes to the person's rescue. Once she
ran into the school and the children all jumped out the windows and fled from her in fear.
The school committee has informed me that something must be done to prevent these
incidents. Look at my cattle pen. I don't have any cows, sheep or goats left. Every animal
I owned I sacrificed to the spirits. The cows I didn't kill I had to sell to pay the witch
doctor. I haven't got any more money. I'm at the end of my strength."
finished her story with the words, "You know, I have often wanted to take a knife and
cut my daughter's throat. At other times I've wanted to bring my own life to an end. But
something always held me back. What would become of my daughter? Nobody would look after
her. Now I am so glad that I have found a person who serves the living God! Perhaps there
is still hope."
When the woman said
that, I felt as if my heart had stopped beating. In my innermost soul I cried out to God,
"O Lord, you are still the same God as of old. Can't you do something?"
I went to some of
my colleagues and shared my experience with them. I asked them to pray with me for this
girl. Next I drove to my parents' farm and asked them for a room where the girl could stay
while we prayed for her. My parents readily agreed and prepared a room. Together with a
few other men I fetched the girl and brought her to my parents' house. Everybody in the
whole area, the entire tribe, knew what was going on.
I said to my
colleagues, "Look, for years we've been praying for revival, but up to now it has
failed to come. Maybe this is the match that we must strike to make the fire burn. If this
girl is healed, then the revival might finally break out, because the whole tribe knows
her: the chief, the children, all the people, young and old. What a mighty victory it
would be for our Lord Jesus if the girl were healed. Then the Zulus would realise that
Jesus is the only true God."
But we had hardly
brought the girl into her nicely furnished room, when she turned the table upside down and
began destroying the chairs. We were eventually forced to remove all the furniture,
leaving only the bed. But then she attempted to pull out the springs in the mattress, so
that we had to take the bed out of the room as well, leaving her only with an 'icansi' (a
grass mat) and a blanket. The next thing that our protégé did was to break the panes and
frames of the windows. Within a few hours that room looked like a pigsty, in which not
just one but many pigs were living.
We prayed day and
night for three weeks, but the girl wasn't healed. Instead, I was at the end of my
strength and close to a nervous breakdown. The girl sang her satanic hymns incessantly.
Someone advised me to plead the blood of Jesus, which the devil would fear and flee, but
to no avail. On the contrary, the girl began to blaspheme the blood. Again and again those
horrible, sacrilegious songs resounded through the room, renouncing the blood and death of
the Lord Jesus as only the devil could do it. All this time the girl would sit half or
fully naked in her excrements, blaspheming. She would stamp on the concrete floor with her
bare feet, like somebody attempting to demolish it with a sledge hammer. She carried on
like that for hours on end, and the noise and blasphemous songs could be heard from far
understand it. We had done what the Bible taught us, but it didn't work. Our experience
belied the theory. I felt like the evolutionists, wise people of this world, who claim
that there is no creator and no God. Millions and billions of years ago we were supposedly
all fish, and these fish developed legs. Not only did they then evolve into frogs, but
also into monkeys, which somehow lost their tails and thereby initiated the human race.
The advocates of this theory can explain all the details most precisely, even down to the
number of years required for this development. But, strangely, there were always missing
links. Many years ago it was announced that a certain Prof. Smith had caught a Coelacanth
(a fish long believed to be extinct). They believed that this fish constituted a missing
link, but to their great disappointment, this could not be verified. And that is exactly
how I felt in my position: The theory was correct, but in practice it didn't work.
What was I to do?
Go back to the girl's mother and tell her that her daughter had not been healed? Everybody
in the area knew that we Christians were praying for this girl. They had heard me preach,
"Don't go to the witch doctors, don't sacrifice oxen and goats to the spirits. Jesus
is the answer to every problem, come to Him." They were all waiting to see what would
happen, and now we Christians had failed. We prayed with all our strength, "O God,
it's not our name which is at stake here. People won't say that we have failed, they will
say: 'It is their Jesus who has failed.'" But heaven seemed barred and we received no
answer to our prayers. In the end we all gave up and were compelled to take the girl back.
Then I beseeched
the Lord, "O God, I beg you to send me somewhere else. I can no longer stand before
these people and preach to them. I've got to be honest with them. I just can't support
something that doesn't work! I have to be honest with myself as well, because I, too, have
a heart and a conscience." After all, I couldn't go to these people and say that
there is no God, that the white man's religion is worthless. The best thing would be to go
somewhere else. But I said to myself that I would never again preach so foolishly as to
evoke a situation as difficult as the one I had landed in now.
From then on I
could no longer believe that the Bible was God's Word and that everything in it was true.
I deemed it possible that parts of Scripture were true and other parts weren't. Anything
that couldn't be reconciled to my experience and my own train of thought, I rejected. I
was like a fool sitting on a throne and passing judgement on what is true and what is not.
I would say, "This is legitimate nowadays, but that is not. This might have been
valid two thousand years ago, but not today. Things have changed. We can't expect
everything in the Bible to be true."
During all those
years I had preached the gospel and sometimes hundreds of people had come forward in one
meeting to accept the Lord Jesus Christ. Then I would usually pray the sinners' prayer
with them before they went home. I knew these young people and the kinds of books they
read at home. I knew that some of them even possessed pornographic magazines. I was
acquainted with young men who couldn't pass a book shop without looking at the pictures of
naked women hanging there. Some of them would even buy them, and then hide them from their
parents - and all of these young people had accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord!
The Lord Jesus said
to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall
thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never
thirst" (John 4:13-14). No, I said to myself, it's not true. Are there people in this
world who are thirstier than the Christians? Some Christians even crave abominable sins,
and if they can't sin openly, they'll do it secretly. At some point in time they came to
Jesus and they drank, but they're still thirsty. Some crave cigarettes, some crave
alcohol, some crave sex and other worldly things. Children ask their parents why they
aren't permitted to dance or go to the cinema and enjoy their lives like other people. The
parents have a hard time raising their children correctly, but they are all Christians!
Perhaps Jesus made
a mistake, or at least the authors of the New Testament did. Probably John didn't write
down exactly what Jesus said. What I experienced was different to what was written. These
young people came to me, I prayed with them, and they accepted the Lord Jesus. But they
remained dirty. They dressed just like the people of this world. Yet the Bible teaches us,
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" (1 John 2:15). If
you see a Christian and a non-Christian walking down the street, you often can't tell the
difference. Yet the Bible says, "Be not conformed to this world!" (Romans 12:2).
I doubted the truth of many such verses in the Bible, because I couldn't believe what was
written there. I believed in what I had experienced, in what I saw and what I heard.
preaching for another six years, and after twelve years of ministry altogether I arrived
at Mapumulo. I thought about it over and over again, and I began to recall the time when
God had first called me to preach the gospel. Hadn't I declared, "Lord, if I'm to
preach the gospel, I don't want to play church." But when I asked myself, "Erlo,
what have you been doing for the past twelve years?" I had to admit I had been
playing the whole time. I had preached the gospel for twelve years and there weren't even
twelve true Christians, in conformance with biblical standards, to show for it. I
remembered the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:1,5: "This know also, that in
the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall have a form of godliness but deny
the power thereof: from such turn away." I thought, "Where are the people that
have this power of which the Bible speaks? I haven't got it myself. I can't carry on like
this. I see other people who are apparently enjoying their lives. They're making money,
and here I am, a poor missionary, preaching something that doesn't work."
I assembled my Zulu
congregation and said to them, "I'm finished. I just can't go on like this any
longer." Maybe my problem was also due to the fact that I used theological ideas to
try to explain things away. I used to say that, possibly, these people didn't live the
lives they should because they were too primitive, too uneducated. If they were more
educated, they would be better able to grasp the truth. But there was one verse in the
Bible which I could not forget. The Lord Jesus took a little child one day, put it in
their midst and said, "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little
child shall in no wise enter therein" (Luke 18:17). Every Christian and every pastor
should take that to heart. Jesus says in Matthew 18:3: "Except ye be converted and
become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Now when
Jesus says we need to become "as little children," he doesn't mean we should
become childish, but that we should become childlike in our faith. There's a distinct
This word out of
the mouth of Jesus was the decisive factor in my decision to abandon all my so-called
wisdom and to read the Bible in childlike faith. I then asked the Zulus whether they would
be prepared to come to two Bible studies a day: at seven in the morning and at five
o'clock in the evening. I said, "We will take our Bibles and we won't explain
anything away. We won't justify ourselves, either, but accept things as they are written.
If God is really the God of the Bible and His word is true, then let us try it and see if
it works. Jesus said that He hadn't come to judge the world, but the word that He spoke
would judge the world. We will try it and test ourselves accordingly. Also, let's not say,
'This is not valid nowadays. This was written for people who lived two thousand years
ago.' Let's just accept things as they are written." They all agreed to my
Dynamis - The Power of the
It was towards the
end of the year 1966 that we began our Bible studies in Mapumulo. We had decided not to
take a verse here or a verse there, like little children, picking out all the raisins in a
cake. It's understandable when children behave that way, but when grown-ups conduct
themselves in such a manner, it's just plain childish. There are people who are constantly
quoting their favourite verses from the Bible. A certain spiritual school of thought, for
example, establishes its teachings around the verse: "God is love". And because
He is a God of love, there can be no hell. That is how false doctrines arise. So we said,
"We don't want to do that. We will take one book of the Bible, beginning with the
first verse, examine the text, through to the last verse. We will then have the whole
picture and not just a part of it."
The Zulus have a
legend which applied to our situation. Three blind men desired to know what an elephant
looked like. Somebody agreed to drive them to a safari park in his car. Once there, they
were led to a very large but tame elephant and each one of them was allowed to step
forward and touch it. The first man walked up to the elephant, grabbed hold of its great
big hind leg and exclaimed, "Is this what an elephant looks like?" The next
blind man took a few steps forward and encountered the elephant's gigantic body. As his
hands stroked along its belly, he cried, "My, is this really an elephant?"
"Yes," he was told, "that's what an elephant looks like." The third
blind man was standing near the elephant's head, so he grasped its trunk and examined it
from top to bottom. All three of them were utterly thrilled to have finally
"seen" an elephant, and they returned home very excited. There they were asked
if they now knew what an elephant looked like. The first man described what he had
observed, "I tell you, an elephant is like the trunk of a large tree." To which
the second gentleman exclaimed, "Man, what are you saying? I really examined it. You
can't fool me! An elephant is like a huge balloon." Finally, the third man
intervened, "Where were you two anyway? I felt it with my own hands. An elephant is
like a big hose pipe." And so they ended up getting into an argument. They had all
"seen" the elephant, but the trouble was, each of them had only touched a part
This story was a
parable for us. We did not want to act like those three blind men, although Christians can
be blind, of course, blind to many things regarding the Scriptures.
I can't recall
today exactly how it happened, but we began with the Acts of the Apostles. Throughout the
years I've always had a soft spot for the first Christians and I feel one can hardly read
the account of the early church without being affected by it. So we began with the first
chapter, at the first verse, and right from the outset the Lord took hold of our hearts.
The Acts of the
Apostles commences with the words: "The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of
all that Jesus began both to do and teach." Luke wrote about what Jesus had begun to
do, and the Acts of the Apostles is a continuation of what Jesus did. When the Lord Jesus
lived in this world, it was only the beginning. His work didn't end with His death. Jesus
actually said to His disciples, "I came to send fire on the earth; and how I wish it
were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how distressed I am
till it is accomplished!" (Luke 12:49-50). That was no baptism with water, that was
the baptism of His agony and death on the cross. The Lord Jesus couldn't kindle the fire
of the Holy Spirit before He had fought the battle in the garden of Gethsemane. There His
sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground. After His death on the
cross, His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven, He could at last
accomplish what He had come for. Now He could continue His work in the fullness of His
power, sitting at the right hand of the Father. At last the moment had come to kindle a
fire. In Acts we can see the Lord working in His resurrection power, His omnipotence,
through His disciples. The people of that time said: "These men are drunk."
Others mocked them or were appalled, but Peter said in answer to them, "Ye men of
Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my
words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the
day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in
the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your
daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall
When we had read
those words we said, "But we are nearer to the last days today than the people two
thousand years ago. If that promise was meant for them, how much more for us now." It
doesn't take very much insight to realise that we are still living in the same period of
time as the early church, and that this age will not come to an end until the Lord Jesus
returns to claim His bride. Spiritually speaking, we are still living in the same 'week'.
God's word says, "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years
as one day." So two thousand years, that was just the day before yesterday. We
haven't even reached the middle of the week yet. Undoubtedly, the same things that applied
to the early church apply to us as well.
The further we got,
the more our hearts were touched. We read that the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples not
to depart from Jerusalem before they had received the baptism John the Baptist had spoken
about. These days, there is much discussion about baptism. Some say it must be done like
this, others say it must be done like that, while others say it must be done at a certain
time. I remember a big open-air meeting in Pretoria in 1952 or 1953, in which Dr. Edwin
Orr did something most extraordinary. He asked a Dutch Reformed minister and a Baptist
minister to come forward. Then he asked them the following question: "When you
baptise, which one of you uses more water?" I thought to myself, "Oh my, how can
such a learned man ask a question like that? One shouldn't do such a thing." Then Dr.
Orr explained, "Look, no matter how much or how little water you use, when you
baptise someone, that person's tongue always remains dry." Do we understand that kind
of language? Water baptism doesn't change our tongue. It might do whatever people say it
does, but is it not so, that baptised children and baptised grown-ups utter things that
should never be heard from the lips of a Christian? But the baptism with fire, of which
the Acts of the Apostles speaks, means more.
The Lord Jesus
says, regarding John the Baptist, that there is none greater born of women. There was
Moses; there was Abraham; there was Elijah: all of them great men of God. But the Lord
Jesus says that none of them is greater than John the Baptist. Wherein lay his greatness?
We don't know of a single miracle attributed to his name, not one blind man whose eyes
were opened, not one lame man who could walk again.
Maybe the Lord
Jesus knew about our doubts. Therefore He says in this verse, "Verily I say unto you
..." In spite of the fact that Jesus calls John the Baptist the greatest born of
women, John the Baptist could say, "One mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose
shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with
We know what fire
is like. If you place black iron in a furnace, it doesn't take long before the colour
changes; the iron becomes red-hot and finally turns white. The heat of the blaze
penetrates to the iron's core. That's how it is when a person is baptised with the Holy
Spirit; the fire of the Spirit penetrates to every part of his being, including his
mentioned, the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the
promise of the Father, that they should be baptised with the Holy Spirit and thereby they
would receive the power to become Jesus' witnesses. The Lord had to command His disciples
to stay in Jerusalem. There was a special reason for that. Maybe His disciples would have
fled. That's what we humans are like. When the going gets tough, we would like best to run
If a woman has a
husband who doesn't understand her or doesn't do what she wants, she feels like fleeing.
We have the same problem with children who believe their parents are being too strict with
them. Often they will turn their backs on their homes for this very reason. There are even
Christians who are constantly moving from one church to the other because they can't get
along in the church they are in. To such people I usually say, "If you can't prove
yourself where you are, you won't be able to prove yourself anywhere else, either."
The Zulus say, "If you put a rotten potato in a bag full of good ones, the rotten
potato won't get better, but the good ones will turn bad." If we don't succeed where
God puts us, we won't be a blessing anywhere else. Therefore it is best to persevere until
God reveals the next step.
the most dangerous place for the disciples to stay? Jerusalem, where their Lord and Master
had been nailed to the cross! They had fled behind locked doors, afraid of being killed as
well. One can understand that, for them, this was the worst spot on earth. But Jesus told
them to stay there until the Holy Spirit had come upon them. We read of the disciples'
reaction to this command, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to
Israel?" But the Lord's reply was like a verbal slap in the face: "It is not for
you to know the times or the seasons, but ye shall receive power, after that the Holy
Ghost is come upon you."
It is possible for
people to be sitting at Jesus' feet, and while Jesus is speaking to them they are
preoccupied with other problems. Of what use is it if we are busy with prophecies and we
haven't received the power of the Holy Spirit to obey God's Word and do what the Lord
Jesus expects of us?
I don't think there
has ever been a time in history in which people have talked about the Holy Spirit more
than today. All around the world people are talking about the Spirit of God.
Unfortunately, people have also never been quite so ignorant with regard to the Holy
Spirit as today. Some time ago I spoke about revival in a series of meetings in Holland.
One preacher stood up and said, "Up to now I had a false picture of revival. I always
assumed that revival had something to do with noise." Some people mistakenly believe
that a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit behaves as if he were full of wine. I
testify to this fact - and I speak from experience - that when the Spirit of God moves,
those are the most silent moments in the life of a person or a church.
Let me tell you
about two Christians who got into an argument. One of them claimed, "Our church is
more pentecostal than your church." To which the other man replied, "No, we are
more pentecostal than you are." "But how can you prove that?" "We
shout Hallelujah much louder than you do." I was told that this is a true story, not
just a fairy tale. In Holland I met a man who was of the same opinion. We mustn't mistake
emotionalism for the working of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus
talks about a distinct characteristic which results when the Holy Spirit comes upon a
person. He shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit! (Acts 1:8). If there must be a
sign, let us accept the sign of which the Lord Jesus spoke. The Greek word for power in
the New Testament is 'dynamis'. It makes me think of dynamite. Dynamite has power, and you
don't use that kind of power on soft sand, you use it to blow the hardest rocks to pieces.
The power of the Holy Spirit is for situations where the ground is as hard as granite.
That's where the Holy Spirit is most effective.
Jesus said to His
disciples, "Ye shall receive power!" When we speak about this power, the first
thing that comes to many people's minds is physical healing. They completely forget that
healing the spirit is of far greater importance than healing the body! It is a thousand
times more valuable to be set free from one's sins than to be healed of one's sicknesses.
Spiritual events must always take precedence.
Now we mustn't take
this verse out of context, or we will falsify its meaning. Let's pay attention to Jesus'
statement: "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and
ye shall be witnesses unto me." What is a witness? We say a witness is a person who
bears testimony of what he has seen and heard. In Greek the word for witness is 'martyr'.
In English we also use this word. A martyr is a person who is prepared to suffer death
rather than renounce his faith. So Jesus actually meant: When you have received the power
of the Holy Spirit, you will have the power to become martyrs. How strange! We might say:
"You will have the power to love. But the power to die? Well, we aren't martyrs, and
we would have to live in countries in which Christians are persecuted and die for their
faith to become martyrs." Nevertheless we can still become martyrs. In Hebrews 12:4
we read, "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." What does
that mean? Simply this, that a person is prepared to say, "I would rather suffer
death than tell a lie! I would rather die than whore with another man's wife! I would
rather die than steal! I would rather die than be a hypocrite or a coward! I would rather
die than be unfaithful to the Lord Jesus! I would rather die than sin!" That is power
to be a martyr for the Lord Jesus.
Peter denied his
Lord. But after he had received the power of the Holy Spirit, he became a faithful witness
for his Lord and was eventually crucified as a martyr. Before he was executed, he said,
"I am not worthy to die in the same way as my Lord and Master. Rather nail me to the
cross with my head down." By the power of the Holy Spirit he was able to die for
Jesus. He died for the truth.
The Apostle Paul
says, "I die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31). What does he mean by that? How can we
die daily? The Lord Jesus experienced death in Gethsemane, so to say, before He physically
died on the cross. There His sweat became like great drops of blood and He was close to
despair, until He was finally able to say to His Father, "Not my will, but thine, be
done." He died to Himself. If we can pray in this way, then we no longer seek our own
will; we humble ourselves under God's will and deny ourselves. To die to oneself is
extremely difficult. It is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When we look at the
apostles, we see how the power of the Holy Spirit became evident in their lives. Acts
recounts how Peter and John went to the temple to pray. A man sat at the gate of the
temple, who had been lame from birth. Peter said to him, "Silver and gold have I
none; but such as I have give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and
walk!" And the lame man stood up! Observe Peter's exact words. He didn't say,
"such as we have give we thee." He said, "such as I have give I thee."
John didn't have the gift of healing. We don't hear of a single healing miracle that the
apostle John worked, although he had the power of the Holy Spirit as Peter had. These two
apostles had different gifts. If we inquire into the nature of John's particular gift, we
find that it lies in the distinct manner of his preaching, his way of teaching the
churches brotherly love, fellowship and unity amongst one another. John experienced the
power of the Holy Spirit to such an extent that he could write (1 John 3:6,8):
"Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: Whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither
known Him. He that commiteth sin is of the devil." That is how we recognise a
born-again Christian! John goes so far as to say that it is not difficult to know whether
a person is born again or not: If someone sins, he is of the devil. If he is really born
again, he does not sin. That's pretty rough language, which makes the theologians scratch
their heads and say, "Oh no, John couldn't have meant it that way."
It's a good thing
that John and the Christians of the early church are no longer alive. Maybe we would start
a revolt against them. We can well understand why John the Baptist was beheaded: because
he told the truth. Look it up in Matthew 3:7-12. What would happen if we had preaching
like that in our churches today? The apostle John was filled with the Holy Spirit to such
an extent, that he couldn't understand that a born-again Christian could still lie. He
couldn't imagine a person having experienced a rebirth through the Spirit who was yet a
friend of this world. He couldn't understand that such a person didn't have the capability
to conquer sin in his life. A greater power is necessary to vanquish sin, to go from
victory to victory, than to heal the sick. These days we have become so superficial in our
judgement. If a person speaks a few words in an unknown tongue, then we say he is filled
with the Holy Spirit, but this person might still be lying or living in adultery. What an
immense difference to what the Bible teaches, if we have an ear to hear.
The Early Church
The more we studied
Acts, the more our hearts were broken. We reached the verse where Peter, John, James,
Philip and all the others were gathered in the upper room in prayer. Even the women were
there, and the brothers of our Lord, and Mary, His mother. It is written that they all
continued with one accord in prayer. This happened even before the Holy Spirit was poured
out at Pentecost. The Lord's death on the cross, His Resurrection, and the events leading
up to the Ascension were enough to unite these people in prayer. To me, this seems to be
the greatest miracle of all: the unity of the Christians! Normally, they quarrel and
slander behind each others backs and kill each other with words. But the death of the Lord
Jesus and His Resurrection moved them so deeply that they were drawn closely together in
prayer and it was possible to say of them: they were one in spirit. How deeply has the
cross of Jesus moved our hearts? What does it mean to us?
Later, we find
these same people at Pentecost, at which time three thousand people were converted. When
the Holy Spirit descended as the Comforter, (Greek: paracletos) He did exactly as His name
indicates. The Comforter comes down to stand alongside us, shoulder to shoulder, and
speaks the same language we speak. That is what happened at Pentecost. All the people
present could hear Peter's sermon in their own language. We may all speak the same
language and yet remain on different wave lengths. There is the language of theologians,
the language of students, the language of politicians. We learn to speak foreign languages
and can't even understand our own, but when the Holy Spirit is at work, He speaks to each
person in a language he can understand. At such a time it doesn't matter whether we are
educated or uneducated, whether we belong to this race or that. The Holy Spirit can speak
in such a way that even a little child will understand. That's literally what happened at
Pentecost. Therefore it is important not to read the Word of God superficially, but to
hear it with proper ears and convey it in an unadulterated way.
At a Christian
meeting I once heard a well-known preacher exclaim, "Now let's pray as they prayed at
Pentecost, when they all spoke in tongues." And then the whole congregation spoke in
tongues. People of different nationalities passed by outside, but none of them could
understand even a single word of what was being said. Pentecost, however, was different.
Everybody could hear what was being said in his own language. I am not against the gift of
tongues, but it must be worked by the Holy Spirit. That is why the apostle Paul writes to
Timothy that he must rightly divide the Word of Truth, i.e., to keep those things apart
which must be kept apart, and to keep those things together which belong together.
When the three
thousand people at Pentecost were pierced to the heart by the message of salvation, they
repented. The consequences of this event can be read in Acts 2:42: "And they
continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread,
and in prayers." They remained together daily in unanimity of the Spirit, as one
heart and one soul. What a miracle! Thousands of people, young and old, men and women,
surely also teenagers and children as well. They didn't just belong to some church or
religious organisation, as we often do. There are Christians today who say, "Oh am I
glad that I don't need to live with that person in our church. She gets on my nerves. It
is good that we can go home after the service and I don't have to get along with her
anymore." The Christians of the early church cultivated their devout fellowship daily
in complete unity of the Holy Spirit. That is the testimony of the Word of God.
There were only
approximately forty Christians at Mapumulo at that time, but, oh, was there friction and
fighting amongst them! I often needed to be a peacemaker, because they just couldn't get
along with each other. One would criticise the other. Instead of going to their adversary
and settling the matter, they would rather speak about the other person's mistakes behind
his back. Their own sins they would prudently conceal - the result of which was proper,
double-faced, hypocritical Christianity.
In Acts 4:31 we
read of the early church that, when they had prayed, the place was shaken. No wonder! When
these people prayed, things happened. Such a prayer could shake the world. Have there ever
been as many prayer meetings and prayer groups as in these times of ours? But what
happens? Have Christians ever been more shaken than they are today? We pray and we don't
move the world, the world moves us! One can understand why. Our very own children confuse
us, our own congregation confounds us and we ask in amazement: How can such things happen?
Even in our own churches there are couples who have to get married, and yet they are
members of the church.
In 1966, as we
considered the first Christians of the early church, we said to ourselves, "That
church is far away from us, not two thousand years, but as far as the east is from the
west. What a difference! If we compare that church to ours, which we believe to be the
best and most pious, how will it be when things come to light..." We then took a
closer look at these people, and got the impression that Jesus wasn't just their hobby or
something for the weekend - no, Jesus was their very life! They lived for Him every day of
the week. Whether they were together or not, their lives were the same. Every day of their
lives Jesus was their all. Some of them sold their possessions, their fields, then brought
everything and laid it at the apostles' feet. Jesus meant more to them than anything else.
They came together daily and had everything in common, without being communists. Nobody
said, "This is mine!" They weren't self-centred, they didn't think of
themselves, they were Spirit-filled and lived for the Lord Jesus. Here we see what a
Spirit-filled person should be like. He doesn't live for himself, he lives for his
neighbour. That's exactly what we saw when we studied those first Christians.
But then the Acts
of the Apostles relates something quite astonishing in chapter five. The devil, who
doesn't sleep, filled Ananias' heart. So the devil can influence us as well! That's why
the Bible says that we shouldn't give the devil any room. This is directed at Christians.
We mustn't be of the erroneous opinion that the devil can't sneak his way into a
Christian's heart. A person who makes such a statement doesn't know what he's saying. We
know that a Christian can also lie, although he is born again, even if he calls it a
"white lie". In that moment the devil comes into his heart. That's exactly what
happened to Ananias. We don't know the reason why. The Bible only informs us that he and
his wife agreed to sell their property. We don't know which of them had the idea, but one
of them started the ball rolling. Maybe this couple wanted to do the same thing the others
were doing. Sometimes we Christians can be brilliant imitators. If somebody does
something, we imitate it without knowing why. The prophet Isaiah says, "All we like
sheep have gone astray." We are like sheep. One sheep copies the other. Ananias and
Sapphira said to themselves, "Let us do likewise." So they sold their
possessions, maybe they even prayed about it. God even sent a buyer - wasn't it wonderful?
But then they somehow reconsidered: "Let's not take everything to the apostles. We'll
withhold some of it. We'll pretend that this was everything, but part of it we'll
keep." We don't know their motives. Maybe they were thinking of their future. But
possibly they agreed in their bedroom to give just a portion of it to the apostles and to
keep the rest in reserve.
Ananias took the
money, brought it to the apostles and laid it at their feet. Peter was filled with the
Holy Spirit, who is a Spirit of truth, and the Spirit said to him, "Peter, there is
something fishy here, there is something wrong." This inspiration prompted him to
say, "Ananias, tell me, is this the price you got for the land?" And Ananias
answered, "Yes." Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan so filled
your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the
money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it
was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing?
You have not lied to me but to God." And what was the consequence of this lie? When
Ananias heard those words, he fell down dead.
We see that the
early church didn't tolerate sin, not even a white lie. They had no room and no time for
sin, and dealt with it most severely. So much so, that a man had to die for a lie. That
was what the early church, the church of Christ, the risen Lord, was like.
I sometimes ask
myself whether we have a right to call ourselves the church of Christ, when we see the
kinds of things that go on in our churches nowadays. In the early church a man had sinned:
he had told a lie. We might not even call it a lie. But that little falsehood was taken so
seriously that it cost him his life. The early church and the Spirit of that church said,
"Rather dead in the grave than alive with a lie in the church."
What do we do? We
worship God as our King, have fellowship with one another, and tolerate sin in our midst!
Upon what foundation are we building? We say, "But he is a member of our church, born
into the congregation and baptised." On Judgement Day that person will burn like
stubble, for nobody is a member of the church of Christ, until he is a member of the body
of Christ Himself, the living and holy Lord. He cannot just belong to an organisation, but
must be genuinely born again, and the fruit of his life must show that he is born again.
Let's return to our
account in Acts, chapter five. About three hours later, Ananias' wife, Sapphira, comes in,
not knowing what had happened. We must remember that these were simple people, they had no
telephones or cars. One would assume that the most obvious thing to do would be to notify
the wife of the deceased, so that she could make arrangements for the funeral! But we read
that several young men carried him out and buried him. Now his wife comes along and
doesn't know that her darling husband is dead. Immediately, Peter confronts her and asks,
"Sapphira, tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" Well,
she had to stand by her husband. They had agreed as to what they were going to do. So she
was faithful to him and answered, "Yes, that is the price." Peter said to her,
"How could you and your husband agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet
of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out
also." Upon hearing those words, she also fell down dead.
In 1966, we asked
ourselves whether we would want to become a member of such a church, one which was like
the first church. What would become of people like us, with our white lies and our petty
little sins. I thought to myself, Thank God there is no church like that today and thank
God that I didn't live in that time, because I might have felt it to be my duty to warn
people: "Beware! That's a dangerous place. Terrible things happen in that church.
People die there. Peter can't be a man of God, filled with God's love. Nobody whose heart
is filled with love would act like that, it's cruel. He didn't even give her a chance. Why
did he expose her in front of all those people? Why didn't he go to her and warn
Maybe we can thank
God that we didn't live in that time. We might possibly have been filled with the Holy
Spirit, but I can tell you one thing: if you pray for revival, you are asking for
something the world doesn't understand. You might even be asking for something that you
don't understand yourself. Consider what happened in this first church when the Spirit of
God descended in all His power and worked amongst its members.
I asked that little
congregation of Zulus, "If I had been Peter, what would I have done? If you had been
Peter, what would you have done?" The trouble is that we read the Bible so
superficially that we cannot grasp what it's all about. Just imagine if we had been there.
What would happen if such a church as the early church were in existence today? Maybe we
would drive those people away and reject them as fanatics, as too extreme, unloving and
without grace. If I had been Peter, and Ananias had come to me, I might have hugged him,
given him a brotherly kiss and said, "Brother, God bless you." I probably
wouldn't have worried about whether he was telling a white lie or not, I would have looked
upon the generous gift he contributed and thought: "that's what we need." We
know the financial costs when thousands of people come together every day. Maybe I would
have received him with enthusiasm and said, "Brother, the Lord be with you. At the
next board meeting I'll propose that you are appointed as a deacon." Those are the
kinds of people we need in the church: people with money.
reacted differently. One could imagine that he was saying, "To hell with you and your
money. We have no room for you in the church of our risen Lord. We can't tolerate a person
who lies, is dishonest and speaks half-truths. It is better to be eaten by maggots, than
to live like that in the church." That is how they dealt with both the husband and
his wife in those times.
We didn't get very
far in our Bible studies. We turned back to the third chapter of Acts, where Peter and
John went to the temple to pray. Peter said to the beggar at the gate, "Look on us.
Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ
of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" Let's examine carefully what Peter said. First he
said to the beggar, "Look at us." How could Peter make such a mistake? No
theologian would express himself in such a manner. We would say, "Look at Jesus, look
at God, look at the Bible, not at us!" Of course, we can understand that Peter made
such a mistake. He didn't have our theological seminaries with professors and teachers as
ours. But we must qualify this assessment. Peter had the greatest Professor and Teacher,
he sat at the feet of the greatest Master. But, even so, how could a person who had just
been filled with the Holy Spirit say, "Look at us." Didn't he know that one had
to look at Jesus? We then delved into the word of God and found 2 Corinthians 3:3, where
it is written, "Clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not
with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of
flesh, that is, of the heart." And verse 2, "You are our epistle written in our
hearts, known and read by all men." We could now understand Peter. The hand of God
was at work in the apostles' lives. The Spirit of God did something to these people.
That's why they could declare without shame, "Look at us." Even before Peter
began his healing ministry he could proclaim with authority, "Look at us!"
Can we, as
witnesses of Christ and ministers in the church of God, say to the world, "Look at
us!" before we begin to witness? Can we as parents say to our children when we
reprove them, "Look at us and the life we live!" Are we setting a good example
for them? Can we say to the maid or the garden labourer, "Look at me," before we
tell them about Jesus? Don't we usually declare, "Don't do as I do, do as I
say!" That's exactly what the Pharisees did. In Matthew 23:3 the Lord Jesus says,
"Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do
according to their works, for they say, and do not do." The Pharisees didn't practice
what they preached. That is the distinguishing characteristic of a Pharisee! The Pharisees
and scribes of the twentieth century are exactly the same. They preach the truth, but they
don't practice it themselves. I emphasise: the Truth! Very often, we believe that
Pharisees are people who preach lies. But then Jesus wouldn't have said to His disciples,
"All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do," if they
had been telling them fairy-tales.
In order to
demonstrate what I mean, let me tell you about a famous preacher. This man received so
many invitations, that he couldn't possibly accept them all. On one of his tours he was
asked to speak in a large cathedral, and his wife, who had also been invited, accompanied
him. Two of the congregation's leading women welcomed his wife and escorted her to church.
Then this preacher got into the pulpit. He was such an orator that everybody was
completely spellbound. While he spoke you could hear a pin drop. His mode of expression
was perfect and he never repeated himself. When the sermon was over, they all departed
silently, deeply impressed. After the three ladies had left the cathedral, one of them
turned to the preacher's wife. "Oh, it must be wonderful," she said, "to be
married to a man who can preach like that!" To which the minister's wife retorted,
"Oh, you don't know what he is like at home!" If our lives can't even impress
our own wives, how much less our children and even less the devil. May God grant that the
people to whom this applies, and who feel this is directed at them, repent and turn from
In 1966, we
recognised that we had no right to open our mouths and preach to the world or the heathen
Zulus before we could say, "Look at us." Let us hear Peter once more: "Such
as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" We
might ask anew, "Peter, aren't you ashamed? You had let the Lord down so terribly,
you denied him! And now you say, "Look at us!" He may then reply, "Yes, my
brother, I can speak in such a way. I sinned, but I repented. I was able to cry because of
my sin and I received forgiveness. When God forgives, He forgets, and I may forget as
well." This is the gospel: we needn't live in the past; the past has been dealt with.
If we have truly, genuinely repented and brought our life in order with God, then through
the forgiveness of our sins we can continue without shame.
Peter went on to
say, "Silver and gold have I none." Just imagine! If we had come to the point
where we had no money, could we still say to people, "Look at us?" When we're on
top of the world, when we've won lots of money, when everything is going fine and glistens
like gold, then we smile. Then we say to the people, "Look at us." However, when
things go wrong, when we are bankrupt and at our wit's end, can we still say, "Look
Was Peter being
honest when he said, "Silver and gold have I none," or was that just a trick to
get around giving the beggar some money? We may have conducted ourselves in such a manner!
We might have said, "I am sorry, I haven't got any money at the moment,"
although in reality our pockets were full of money.
In spite of these
questions, we must accept that Peter was speaking the truth, but he wasn't ashamed of the
fact that he had no money and he continued by saying, "But such as I have..." -
notice what Peter said, he had something! - "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
rise up and walk!"
At this point, I
told my little Zulu congregation the story of a Roman Catholic priest, whose services were
attended by thousands of people in a huge cathedral. This priest didn't use the customary
collection plates for the offering. Instead, he set up a large table near the door for
this purpose. After the people had left, the table was laden with money, with silver and
gold. As the old priest was counting this money with his young curate at his side, he
said, "Look, young man. Peter can no longer say, 'Silver and gold have I none.' Nor
can the Pope say that today." To which the young man replied, "Neither can he
say, 'In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!'"
We see that the
tables have been turned. What they once had, we no longer have. Somewhere along the way
something got lost. What they didn't have, we do have, and it plays quite an important
role in our lives. Money is a significant factor when we decide whether or not to go into
the Lord's ministry, and it assumes a decisive role in regard to our decision. Perhaps we
are a bit like Judas Ischariot. Peter, however declared, "I don't have any
money." It didn't seem to bother him either, as he gave what he had.
Suddenly, a young
woman of the Zulu congregation, who had been converted just three months before, stood up.
Tears were streaming down her face as she said, "O Mfundisi, please stop." This
young woman interrupted me in the middle of a sentence! Astonished, I asked, "Yes,
what's wrong?" She replied, "May I pray?" I didn't know what to do. It was
like a bolt out of the blue. A newly converted person suddenly gets up, stops the service,
and wants to pray. I didn't know whether to allow it. This young person had no theological
training, she was no deacon, no elder in the church. Could she even pray? What if she
prayed incorrectly? But then I looked at her and I thought, "Well, she isn't
deceiving us, she seems to be serious." Thus I said, "All right, you may
pray." This young woman then prayed a simple prayer, "O Lord Jesus, we have
heard what the early church was like. Couldn't you come down and be in our midst as you
came down two thousand years ago? Couldn't our church be the same as the one in
At this moment my
heart began to burn within me. I thought of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, when
they were joined by a third, unknown man who walked with them and spoke to them. Their
eyes were opened after He had broken bread with them and the one said to the other,
"Did not our heart burn within us, while He opened to us the Scriptures?" I
thought, "Is this what they felt? O Lord, grant that your children and your church in
the world today may be like the early church. Can't you do it once again? Revive your
work, O God. Can't the Christians today be like the first Christians again?" With
that, I closed the service.
When I got home, I
called on my brother, who lived in the village where we held our services, and said to
him, "You know, a strange thing happened today. The meeting was suddenly interrupted,
not by terrorists, but by a prayer. If that prayer was inspired by the Holy Spirit - and I
don't doubt that it was - then I believe that the risen Lord, the living God, will again
be in our midst and the church of Christ will experience what the first Christians
experienced in Jerusalem." A week and a half later, God rent the heavens and came
Conviction of Sin is the
Beginning of a Revival
"Oh that thou
wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow
down at thy presence, as when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to
boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy
presence! When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the
mountains flowed down at thy presence. For since the beginning of the world men have not
heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he
hath prepared for him that waiteth for him." Isaiah 64:1-4
This is truly a
genuine prayer for revival. In 1966, in our spiritually desperate situation, we prayed,
"O God, if you would only rend the heavens."
The prophet is
saying: "Lord, we agree with whatever you do, even if the price we must pay is high,
as long as you come down and remain in our midst." When I speak of revival, I'm not
talking about revival meetings. I'm talking about when God Himself rends the heavens and
comes down into our midst, and every person there is conscious of the presence of the
We prayed earnestly
for revival. We came together twice a day, but after a while we were lead so deeply into
repentance that our Bible studies began to recede into the background and we just broke
down and wept. Until then we had prayed that God would come down and work amongst the
heathens. We hadn't realised that God never begins with the heathens and the people
outside, the people in the streets. He always begins in the house of God, as we find in
the first epistle of Peter chapter 4:17. We can't blame the ungodly for not being
converted, if we Christians aren't being revived and living the right kind of life.
We asked ourselves
what the life of a person who believes in Jesus should be like. In John 7:38 Jesus says,
"He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow
rivers of living water." He doesn't say a little stream or rivulet. Just imagine what
a river can do. Even a small stream can become a mighty current when heavy rainfall causes
it to overflow its banks. With the water from a river we can transform a desert into a
garden, irrigate fields or produce electricity. Here Jesus isn't talking about only one
river, but about rivers of living water. When we asked ourselves at Mapumulo, "Are
there such rivers of living water flowing out of our lives?" we had to answer,
What is it like,
when rivers flow? It isn't possible to stop such streams of water. One can build a dam,
but an immense amount of water pressure will build up and eventually the barrier will
crack if the dam wall isn't strong enough and it cannot flow over. When a dam bursts one
can witness the violent force of such crushing torrents of water. Spiritually speaking,
this means that there is nothing in the world that will stop the rivers of living water
which the Spirit of God can work in our lives.
I remember one day,
I asked the little congregation, "Who of you believes in Jesus Christ?" Then I
did something which I normally avoid. I said, "I would like those of you who believe
in Jesus to raise their hands." Of course there wasn't a single person who didn't
raise his hand. So I said, "Look, we have to face things squarely. Jesus says if we
believe in Him, as the Scriptures say, then rivers of living water will flow out of our
lives. Now let me ask you a personal question: Are there rivers of living water flowing
out of your lives?"
mean that you don't believe in Jesus?"
"But we are
sure that we believe in Jesus. We have accepted Christ, we surrendered our lives to him.
We can't doubt that," they replied.
that's the way it is, then we are either deceiving ourselves, or the words Jesus said
What were we to do
now? We had determined that we would no longer justify or excuse ourselves. All
discussions were pointless. Now we were at a loss, we had reached a deadlock and could
find no solution to our problem. But suddenly it seemed to me as if the Lord were showing
me something. I looked at the verse once more, where Jesus says, "He that believeth
on me, as the Scripture hath said..." In other words, maybe Scripture has something
specific to say about the life of a believer, and not only that rivers of living water
will flow out of our lives.
So we got together
again and took this into consideration. We said to ourselves, "Let's search the
Scriptures and let the Word speak to us. Let us not twist and turn what we read, nor tear
it apart, rather let us shed light on it from all sides. We must disregard our ways and
customs, our church laws and our personal religious opinions, and hear exactly what the
Bible has to say. Do we really believe as the Scripture says?"
Then God began
working on the greatest sinner in that congregation. It was the preacher, it was I! I had
always criticised and blamed others and had an excuse for everything. When people asked me
why I found everything so difficult, I would say, "You've got to understand. It's not
easy for a white man to preach the gospel today. The blacks, the Zulus, don't accept it.
They say it's the white man's religion and, what's more, a white man who is preaching.
People are politically-minded today, influenced by communism and certain theologies. Just
look at the young people, what they are busy with and what takes up all their time:
alcohol, sex, soccer, discotheques, pornography, television, etc. Then one can understand
why people turn away from God more and more, and revival can't break out."
I would always find
fault with others, and point a finger at them, but what happens if you point your finger
at someone? Don't three fingers point back at you, as if saying that you are three times
as bad as the person you are criticising? We always judge according to our own standards.
And, psychologically speaking, a person always sees his own mistakes in others. If you
want to know a person's weak spot, just listen to what he has to say about other people.
These very things are usually found in his own life.
Let me illustrate
this with a few examples. An artist may look at a tree, and see a motif for a beautiful
picture. A carpenter regards the tree from a different perspective. He thinks of the
wonderful planks he can fashion from it. The man who planted it would see yet another
Let's consider an
alcoholic. He is constantly thinking of alcohol. If he sees someone else with a bottle
under his arm, he will immediately think, "Oh, he bought some liquor, he's a drunkard
like me." But possibly the bottle only contains water. A homosexual might see two men
walking down the street together and think, "They are probably just like me."
But then God placed
His finger on certain things in my life. I remember one Saturday morning, some of the
blacks came and asked me if we couldn't come together at one o'clock that afternoon. They
hadn't been home all week, and some of them had a walk of seven kilometres to get home.
They wanted to get back to their families over the weekend, so that they could look after
the children and attend to the laundry and the housekeeping. So I agreed that we would
meet at noon.
At that time we
came together in a small building, which had been a cow shed before. On the other side of
the road were the tennis courts, and as we assembled there at the time we had arranged,
the magistrate, the assistant magistrate, the postmaster, the police sergeant and other
people from Mapumulo had just gathered for a game of tennis. I thought to myself, "Oh
my, what will those people think of me, if I go down on my knees and pray with these
blacks?" I knew these dignitaries, knew where they stood spiritually, and was ashamed
to pray as we had been doing. What was I supposed to do now? The whites would think I was
cracked, but at that moment I didn't realise that that's exactly the point, that we must
be cracked, so that the light of God can shine through. The sooner we are broken, the
better. I was in a dilemma. Should I say to the blacks, "Go home and come back after
the others have finished playing their game; come back at five." But what reason
would I give? After all, I couldn't tell them that I was ashamed to pray with them. Again
and again I heard a voice inside: What will those people out there think of me, a white
man, praying on my knees with these blacks?
Suddenly I had a
brain wave. I decided to get up and close the windows, so that the people out there
couldn't hear what was going on inside. These were old-fashioned windows, which you had to
push up. As I had closed them, I heard a voice say to me, "Okay then, close the
window. Then you will be inside, and I will remain outside!"
I didn't need any
special translation for that kind of language! I understood it immediately. I knew it
wasn't the window which kept God outside, it was my pride! For the first time in my life,
I realised that God's Spirit is a Holy Spirit. I had never seen it that way before. I had
spoken about the Holy Spirit hundreds, maybe thousands of times, but I had never realised
what the Holy in the Holy Spirit really meant. In all that time the holiness of God's
Spirit had never been revealed to me.
Before the revival
broke out, I didn't particularly like the Pentecostals, indeed, I had often challenged
them openly. We must be very careful with what we say and what we do as it is so easy to
declare, "I am baptised with the Holy Spirit, I am Spirit-filled," and have
people look up to us. For instance, I knew two men who spoke in tongues and claimed that
they were Spirit-filled, but one of them used words no Christian should ever use; He could
swear and curse most severely. The second man fooled around with women. That was a weapon
I used, and I would say, "Come up here onto the platform with me, and I will test
what you have said, since you are allegedly filled with the Holy Spirit," - although
I myself had no clue as to what the Holy Spirit really was. I emphasise this, because we
tend to profess so much with words, but live so little by them. In doing so, we bring much
dishonour to God's name.
When God blessed
Andrew Murray and the Dutch Reformed church in the Cape province with a revival and worked
mightily in that area, Murray had much opposition. I am of the opinion that the depth of
God's work can be measured by the amount of opposition encountered. If there's not much
opposition, God hasn't done much. Regarding Dr. Murray, some people claimed, "Andrew
Murray teaches false doctrines, he is too extreme and eccentric. We are all sinners,
nobody can live the way he preaches." They then chose two people to go and visit
Murray and stay with him for two weeks. After those two weeks they came back and reported
the following: "Friends, he doesn't preach half of what he lives. If you had been
there with him and the people around him, and had seen how they live and behave, then you
could only say: they don't only preach, they live accordingly." It is as with the
Queen of Sheba, who, when she arrived at Solomon's palace, had to say that she hadn't been
told half of what she saw.
Therefore we must
be careful with our words. Usually we say more than we do, and claim more than we are
actually worth. Great harm has already been done in this world, and the people who have
done the greatest damage to God's work are not the communists, but the Christians. Not the
ungodly, but the ones who call themselves Christians, although in reality they are
lukewarm. That is why Jesus says in Revelation 3:15-16, "I would thou wert cold or
hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of
my mouth." Rather ungodly or a raw heathen than a lukewarm Christian, for Jesus can
put up with the heathens, the cold ones, more easily than those who are lukewarm.
Therefore the Lord warns the Christians of the church in Laodicea that He will spew a
lukewarm Christian out of His mouth, and his end will be worse than that of a heathen.
Let's return to the
point where God revealed my pride to me. Pride is a dreadful thing, a terrible sin. Again
and again I saw the words of the apostle before my inner eye, "For God resisteth the
proud" (1 Peter 5:5). I had never given it much thought. I had always been of the
opinion that it was the devil who was making things so difficult for me. Now I realised
that it wasn't the devil, but God Himself who was resisting me. God's Word doesn't say
that the devil resists the proud - God resists the proud.
What is our
greatest danger? There are numerous possibilities. Some say the terrorists. Such people
can only sleep at night with their doors and windows locked. Some say the blacks are our
greatest danger, others say the greatest danger is communism. But in reality it is God
Himself, the very One who saved us, Who is our gravest peril!
The children of
Israel were saved by the blood which they put on the posts of their doors. They drank of
the spiritual Rock that followed them, which was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). In the next
verse we read that the same hand which saved them slew them in the wilderness, for God was
not well pleased with His people. The result was that most of them weren't permitted to
set foot in Canaan. God, in His wrath, had turned against them.
There is nothing in
this world that we need fear more than God. Even if the whole world were for us, but God
against us, we would be fighting a lost battle. But one man with God means victory and
superiority over the whole world. The Bible says, "If God be for us, who can be
against us?" How nice it would be, if that little word "if" were not there.
Things would be so much simpler if the Bible said, "God is for us, so who can be
against us?" But there is a question mark - "If" God be for us - and we
must ask ourselves: Is He for us? Undoubtedly, we can't avoid that question if we think
about it seriously.
When we look at
some Christians, we must doubt whether God is with them. I have experienced one thing: If
there is pride in a Christian's life, God will resist him. That's what my life was like.
When I realised that, I cried out and prayed, "O Lord, I always thought that the
devil was against me, but now I see that it is You who are resisting me. There is no hope
for me! If it were only the devil, by your grace I could overcome him. But if You are
against me, then I am lost!"
It seemed to me
that God was grinding me through the mill, and He didn't begin with my feet, either. He
threw me in head first and put His finger on my sore spot: my pride! Let's never forget
that! Where pride is found, God is in opposition to that work, that place and that person!
He has made it unmistakably clear that He resists the proud.
That, however, was
just the beginning. The Holy Spirit showed me one sin after another. He did exactly what
we read in John 16:7, where the Lord Jesus says, "It is expedient (to your advantage)
that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you." It seems
to us as if God's Word portrays things in an incorrect manner. We read that the Comforter
will guide us into all truth. "He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness
and of judgement." If Jesus speaks of a Comforter that will come, then we expect that
Comforter to comfort us! Is there any comfort in His convicting us of sin? On the
contrary, things become quite uncomfortable!
Years ago, a
preacher asked, "Tell me, when you preach, do you ever touch on sin?" I replied,
"I'm sorry, but my experience is such that I can't speak about anything else."
He said, "Well, I can't preach about sin, because every time I touch on the subject,
I see the people getting uncomfortable and moving around on the benches."
For what purpose
did Jesus come to this earth? What does the name Jesus mean? He came for the purpose of
saving us from our sins, and that is what His name means, "He shall save his people
from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Why did He die on the cross? What did He shed His
blood for? Wasn't it to carry our sins up to the cross, to deal with them? He was made to
be sin for us. He died for us, to save us from our sins.
heartbreaking for the disciples when the Lord Jesus told them that He was going to leave,
because it was heaven on earth for them to have fellowship with Him. Can you imagine
anything better than having Jesus in your midst, to see Him, to hear Him and to discuss
all your problems with Him? But Jesus says: There is something better! I must go, or the
Comforter will not come. But when He comes, He will convict the world of sin. "Of
course He'll convict the world of sin," we agree quickly. "Yes, the world, but
not us Christians." We often criticise the politicians and their double-faced
statements, but maybe we are worse than they are. When the Bible says, "For God so
loved the world," we say it was meant for us. He loves me! But when He convicts the
world, He convicts other people, not me. There must be something wrong here somewhere.
Remember Peter's statement, that judgement must begin at the house of God? That's exactly
where it begins! That's where He convicts people of sin. Whenever the Spirit of God moves,
then undoubtedly it will be the way Jesus said He would.
It is not true that
the Spirit initially enables people to praise and worship Him. That is nonsense! That's
putting the cart before the horse, turning things upside-down. People will be full of joy!
No, by saying that, we are twisting the Word of God. The first thing that happens when the
Holy Spirit comes into a person's life is that He convicts that person of sin. There is
broken-heartedness, and people weep because of their sin. Their faces are sour, not happy.
There are tears and not smiles, because the Spirit of God is at work.
are not genuine; the "converts" are not born again of the Holy Spirit. There are
Christians who don't know what it means to be convicted of sin. One might ask if those
people have ever come into contact with the Holy Spirit. Let's pay attention to what Jesus
said. When the Comforter comes, He will open our eyes to our sin - and that will be
anything but joy - until we have no other alternative but to flee to the cross, where our
sins can be washed away. Then joy will enter our hearts. In actual fact, we can't love
Jesus if we don't know what forgiveness of sin means. The deeper the conviction, the
greater our love to Jesus, because: "He who is forgiven much, loves much." The
people who love Jesus most are the people whose godly sorrow has gone deepest. Such people
don't just say they love Him, they love Him with their entire way of living. They keep His
Word, they believe in Him as the Scriptures say, and they live a life of holiness and
There is another
experience which I remember quite well. One day I arrived at the building after the
singing had already begun, so I didn't have time to change my clothes. I thought to
myself, "What would the people say if I got up before the congregation without a
proper suit and tie, my shirt open, and the Bible in my hand? What would they think of
remembered the time when the prophet Elijah stood before a godless King Ahab and his
ungodly wife, who apparently ruled the king's life. She was a woman who led an immoral
life, who surely dressed attractively, maybe with her face made up: an impressive figure
for her surroundings. But in the end she was eaten by the dogs. God showed all the world
once and for all how such a woman ends. When the prophet stood before this king, he said,
"As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand!" Try to imagine that.
Have we ever stood in the presence of a king, a president or a prime minister? What would
we feel? Elijah had to appear before a king who considered him to be his enemy. Elijah
stood before a dictator, a man who feared nothing, who killed whom he wished, and cursed
whom he wished. And yet Elijah could say, "King, it is the God of Israel before whom
I stand!" Even before a mighty, worldly king, Elijah was conscious of the presence of
I couldn't claim
that of myself. I was subject to the opinions of men. I wasn't concerned with what God
would say, but with what those people thought of me. When I stood before the congregation,
I stood before men and not before God. I danced to their tune! When I realised that, I
felt it would break my heart!
I love the prophet
Elijah, and I wish there were more people like him, who pray with their face between their
knees, and then things happen! Elijah prayed that it wouldn't rain - and it didn't rain
for three and a half years. This was a man who saved an entire nation, a man whom God used
to close the heavens. Then Elijah bowed down with his face between his knees and prayed
again. After the seventh time, his servant said, "Behold, there ariseth a little
cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand." And the rain came for which the prophet had
prayed. Elijah was a man who could pray the fire of God down from heaven. I loved this
man, and in my heart I cried, "I wish to be like that!" In James we read,
"Elijah was a man like us." But what kind of man was this? He was a man with
godly authority, not like a soap bubble, which glistens in the light of the sun and then
bursts. No, Elijah was a man who could pray! The early church prayed, and the place was
shaken. Has there ever been a time in the Christian world in which there has been more
prayer than today? Everywhere there are prayer meetings! But in spite of the many prayers,
the place is not shaken, the place shakes us. It shakes and moves Christianity, and we
say, "What will become of us Christians?" Let us regard this precisely in the
Light of God for once, so that we may know where we stand.
When I thought of
Elijah, it was as if I had been struck by lightning. I prayed, "O God, forgive me,
have mercy upon me!" Then God reminded me of the words of the apostle Paul, "For
if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ!" (Galatians 1:10). What
had I been telling the Zulus for twelve years? "I come to you as a servant of Jesus
Christ to preach the gospel." Now I was being tested and tried by the Word of God. I
knew the Scripture in 1 Corinthians 9:27, where Paul says of himself, "lest that by
any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be cast away." I knew all
too well that this was possible. I had been a preacher of the gospel all these years, but
was rejected and cast away in God's eyes. All this led me to inner brokenness.
Then I suddenly saw
a picture, like a vision. I'm not a person who believes in visions or dreams, but I'll
never forget this picture. If I were an artist, I could still draw it today. There was a
Hindu temple with all sorts of gods and idols. I saw myself entering the heathen shrine
and bowing down to the ground before the first of these idols and worshipping it. Then I
stood up, went to the next idol, touched my forehead to the floor and worshipped that
image. Again I rose and did the same with the third idol. I finally awoke with a shout and
cried, "Lord, for twelve years I have been preaching to the Zulus, 'I am the Lord thy
God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven
image, or any likeness...' and here I am, the preacher, bowing down to the idols and
Yes, God showed me
that I had committed idolatry. Weeping, I went into the assembly room in which I was
supposed to hold the service, but I couldn't preach. With much effort I could only
stutter, "Let's get down on our knees and pray." I wept incessantly and cried,
"God, be merciful to me a sinner." That was the beginning of the revival. God
was putting me through His mill, which grinds slowly and minutely. Anybody that hasn't
experienced it for himself doesn't know what it means when one speaks of God's mill. At
that time I forgot that I had been a preacher of the gospel for twelve years. I forgot
that I had studied and that I had called myself a child of God. I prayed like the sinner
in the temple, who beat his own breast.
It was Christmas
time when the revival broke out. We were five brothers and one sister in my family, and
Christmas time was a wonderful time of the year for us. Long before the nativity we would
be singing those beautiful Christmas carols. But that year things were different. I forgot
all about Christmas. There was no decorated tree, no joyful Christmas feeling, no
Christmas songs. A member of the congregation came up to me and said, "Brother, don't
you know that today is Christmas?" after I had preached on a completely different
subject in the service. God was busy dealing with me.
I was so blind, so
dull and so deaf, that the Lord had to seize me by my collar and shove everything under my
nose so that I could see. One day, as I was walking to the service, I suddenly realised
that I hadn't even shaved. Nowadays such a thing is not quite so bad. Many people walk
around unshaved. But we had been raised in such a way, that it was a disgrace for a man to
appear unshaved in public. That's what I was thinking as I was about to appear before the
congregation unshaved. What will the people think of me? Again I was smitten by the Word
of God: "By Jesus Christ the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world"
(Galatians 6:14). "Lord Jesus," I prayed, "You said, 'He that believeth on
me, as the Scripture hath said,' But I don't do that. I am not crucified unto the world
like Paul. According to Your Word, I should be dead unto the world and unto sin!" In
times of revival the Word of God comes alive. It smites us and pierces our hearts. It is
not like a duck, which doesn't get wet in the water, or a rock, which stays dry inside,
although it lies at the bottom of the river. The Word of God is like a hammer, that breaks
a rock into pieces. It now became clear to me that it wasn't the heathens who were
standing in the way of revival. I could only cry out, "Lord, there is only one person
hindering your work, and that is me! Please forgive me!"
One thing after the
other was revealed to me. One day, I was standing under a wild fig tree, and some Africans
were standing nearby, watching me. "One can see that he is a drunkard," they
remarked, "but he doesn't seem to be of the worst kind." I can't remember what I
looked like, but the very people I had looked down upon, now held me in disdain, because
God humbles the proud. The Lord reminded me of what the Prime Minister, Dr. Verwoerd, told
us whites one day, when he spoke of the Bantus, "We must love our neighbours as
ourselves." I said to myself then, "Yes, that is easier said than done."
Now, after so many years, God used those words spoken by the late Prime Minister and said
to me, "Erlo, it's not Dr. Verwoerd, but the King of Kings who is asking you: Do you
love your neighbour as yourself?" I looked at those Zulus and said to the Lord,
"Yes, I do love them. After all, I've sacrificed myself for these people. But if I'm
honest with myself, I must admit that I don't love them as I love myself." Then God
replied in my heart, "If you want revival, it's going to happen according to My Word,
and you must believe as Scripture says. You must love your neighbour as yourself. Do you
love the Zulus as yourself?" All I could say was, "No, Lord, I can't, I am
sorry. I feel I can't do that, it is going too far." But the Lord didn't stop at
that. He said, "The greatest shall be the lowliest. The first, the last. And the
greatest, the servant of all." I said, "O God, no! Forgive me, but I can't go
this way with you any longer, Lord. I picture in my mind a black man, walking along with a
suitcase, and me having to go and say to him: 'Let me carry your suitcase for you.' That
is impossible, I can't do such a thing. O God, please forgive me, but I can't do it."
I started sweating. Things got so bad, that I'd wake up at night, and my bed would be
soaked with perspiration because of this struggle within me. I tried to bargain with God
and cried, "Lord, send me somewhere else, to a lonely island, or another country, but
I can't do what you are asking of me here in South Africa. What will my family say, my
parents, my brothers? Lord, I am prepared to do anything, but you can't expect me to be
the servant of the 'least'. To my own people, the whites, yes, but to the Zulus, no, I
can't do that!"
Then it seemed as
if the Lord was saying, "Well, I won't force you. You are the one who asked for a
revival. You wanted to have me in your midst. But when I come, I come as King, and I will
have the last word." I twisted and turned in order to escape, to resist the Lord, but
He wouldn't let go. He just put on more pressure, tightened the belt, and said,
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done
it unto me."
On Judgement Day,
He will put the lowliest person before us and measure our relationship to Him according to
how we treated that person. That is how we can test our love for the Lord. Just take the
lowliest person we know, the very lowliest, and then measure the love that we have for
that person. We can't be a fraction closer to Jesus than we are to that person. That's how
Jesus will judge us one day. What a shocking day that Judgement Day will be! May God grant
that we are shocked now. Sometimes it is good for a person to receive a shock to make him
see clearly again. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my
brethren," says Jesus, not how we treat the greatest or most influential - but the
lowliest and most despised of those who believe in Him. Can you understand now that I was
shaken to the core of my soul and felt as if God was putting me through the mill? It was a
terrible battle, and I cried to God, "O Lord, I can't live such a life. It goes
against the grain, I just can't do it! I will lose my life!" But then His answer
spoke clearly to my heart, "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that
loseth his life for my sake shall find it."
We fight for our
lives, we fight for our existence. But there is a God in heaven who makes things so
difficult for us. It sometimes seems as if we'd get along much better without Him than
with Him. But there is an almighty God who says, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall
he also reap." It is true that, what we sow, we reap a hundredfold. That which we do
unto others, will be done unto us, only a hundred times worse, or a hundred times better,
because there is a God in heaven. It would be so much easier without Him, but He makes
things so difficult for us. Unless, of course, we bow to His Will and let Him be Lord of
our life. But what does that mean? It doesn't mean to make Him our Lord by saying with our
lips: Lord Jesus, you are Lord! To let Him be our Lord means that our way of living
corresponds with His Word, that we believe as the Scripture says, and that we are obedient
One day things had
gone so far that I prayed, "Lord, I can't go on like this any longer!" And the
Lord answered, "Erlo, didn't you pray for revival? And now you're saying, 'I can't go
on like this.' Okay, then leave it. I won't come. You asked me to come down, and now I am
coming down, and want to start, but I begin at the House of God and not with the
Maybe you can
understand now why so many people pray for revival, but so few experience it. Why is that
so? The reason is that many Christians are only playing with words when they pray for
revival. And when revival comes, they turn against it and become enemies of that which
they prayed for. As to the reason for this, experience has taught us the following: if
someone resists the working of God's Spirit, then it is only because there is sin in that
person's life - and often it is fornication! There is so much filth, even in the lives of
so-called children of God. That is why the Holy Scriptures teach us that judgement must
begin in the House of God, in other words, in His church.
There were so many
things which God had to clean up in my life, I can't recount them all. Again and again I
tried to bargain with Him, to dictate how He should work among us, according to our ideas
and concepts. And God answered thus: "Am I a schoolboy? I am God, and I move as I
will. You cannot fit me into some pattern of yours, and unless you are prepared to accept
that, don't expect me to come, for 'I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no
saviour!' I don't need an advisor to tell me what to do."
That was quite a
hurdle for me, and I put up a fierce struggle until I finally got to the point where I
could say, "All right God, Your will be done. Work as You like!" The next
problem was that I was afraid things would get out of hand. But God is a God of order and
as long as He is in charge, nothing gets out of hand.
Although I had no
knowledge of it, God was also busy working on the congregation while He was working on me.
He began to convict them of their sins. One would go to the other and ask for forgiveness.
Husbands would reconcile themselves with their wives, and wives with their husbands.
Children would say to their parents, and friends to friends, "I said evil things
about you, please forgive me. - Forgive me, there was bitterness in my heart towards you.
- I gossiped about you behind your back. I'm sorry, I should have come to you first."
For Jesus teaches us, "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him
his fault between thee and him alone" (Matthew 18:15). If we gossip behind our
brother's back, we are in danger of hell fire, just as he is because of his sin.
The Zulus, who had
been calling me 'Mfundisi' until now, began calling me 'Baba' (father). A Zulu usually
doesn't do that. Nobody but their own people are called 'Baba'. I marvelled that they
should do that, because they couldn't know what had taken place between me and God. They
suddenly treated me with greater respect than ever before and were willing to give their
lives for me. Surely this was because, spiritually speaking, I had lost my life when I
surrendered to the Lord. I am a witness to the fact that God's word is true: "He that
loseth his life for my sake shall find it." That is also applicable in regard to the
possibility that our very lives might be demanded of us. Some people have advised me,
"You must flee. We don't want you to be killed by communists or spies." It could
be that I will be the first whose life will be taken. But, even so, I will testify to the
fact that "He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." To me it would
mean the Crown of Life to die in such a way. The greatest thing that I could do for my
Lord and Master is to have my blood shed, as a small token of thanks to Him Who gave His
last drop of blood for me.
The Working of the Holy Spirit
The day came when
God rent the heavens, as it were, and came down while we were gathered together. Suddenly
we heard a noise like a great wind. I can only faintly suggest what happened and attempt
to make it clear with a small example. It was similar to pressurised air escaping from an
air pump, and as if that wind were blowing right through every one of us. The Spirit of
God came down and nobody had to explain to anyone else, "Look, God is in our
midst." Everybody was conscious of the presence of God without anybody saying a word.
All I could do was to bow down and worship the God of heaven.
What happened then?
The Spirit of God came over that place, over the whole area, and brought the people. The
first person to come was a witch who lived seven kilometres away and was in charge of a
training school for witches. God began at the very strongholds of Satan. To use the
prophet Isaiah's words: "The mountains flowed down at Thy presence, as when the
melting fire burneth." The fire burned as if everything were made of dry brush-wood.
When I asked this witch, "What is it you want?" she answered, "I need
Jesus. Can He save me? I am bound with chains of hell. Can He break these chains?"
I couldn't believe
my eyes and ears! For twelve years I had tried in vain to convert witches, sometimes for
weeks at a time, and they had always claimed that their powers were a gift from God. And
now, suddenly, right out of the blue, a witch stood in front of me and told me that she
was sick and tired of her life, and was bound with chains of hell.
"Who spoke to you?" I asked her.
"Nobody," she answered.
"Who preached to you?"
"Who invited you?"
"But I can't understand this. Where do you come from? What happened?"
"Why do you ask me all these questions? Don't waste my time! If Jesus doesn't save me
right now, I will die today and go to hell!
"I had never seen the likes. I continued by asking, "Are you prepared to open
your heart to the Lord Jesus and let Him come into your life?"
"I am prepared to do anything."
"Are you prepared to confess your sins?"
After she had done
all that, she said, "Pray for me, that Jesus rids me of these evil spirits." And
she called the spirits by name: Izizwe, Indawo, Indiki - these aren't just imaginary
concepts. If a person is possessed by the spirit of Izizwe, he can speak in foreign
languages which he has never heard or learnt.
I didn't know how
to pray for a witch. I had tried it once before, when a possessed person came to me, and I
had commanded those forces in the name of Jesus to be gone. The result was that I became
the laughing stock of the devils! I couldn't understand it then. In the Acts of the
Apostles we read that they even took Paul's handkerchiefs, to lay them on the possessed,
and the evil spirits left. But I came to nothing and became the laughing stock of the
demons. Now here I stood and was supposed to pray for a witch. I called five or six
co-workers together and we sat in a circle with this woman in the middle. She was
illiterate, a woman from the heart of the country, who had never worked for Europeans or
English-speaking people. We sat on chairs around her and began by singing an Easter hymn
with the cry of victory: He arose - He is the mighty victor - He overcame the devil - He
conquered sin and death - we need not fear - He's paid the price with His own blood!
As we repeatedly
sang that hymn, the woman suddenly jumped off her chair, threw herself down on her hands
and knees, and began to move around like a wild animal. She looked like a tiger preparing
to pounce on its victim. Her eyes had such an inconceivably terrifying expression that one
of the co-workers bolted and ran out of the room in panic. We had to call him back, calm
him down and tell him that we have no need to fear, since Jesus has broken all the powers
of the devil. The woman then began to speak to us in English, a language she had never
learnt at school. Suddenly many dogs began to bark from within her. Even people outside
the door could hear it. My brother owned a large dog which came running from quite a
distance to jump up against the window in search of the other dogs. Now it might be
possible to imitate just one dog, but by no means an entire pack. When that was over, a
herd of pigs began grunting and squealing from inside her. We then commanded the powers of
darkness in the name of Jesus, whose Name is above all names, to leave. "We are three
hundred strong warriors, and we won't leave this person," they cried out. That was no
woman speaking! Other forces were using the voice of a human being. We prayed, "O
Lord, set this person free!" Suddenly these demons made a remarkable statement. They
said, "We knew of God the Father, and even of God the Son, but since the Holy Spirit
has come, we are burning. His fire is too hot for us."
That reminded me of
the Scripture: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of
hosts" (Zechariah 4:6). In Ephesians 6:12 it says, "For we wrestle not against
flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the
darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." For years this
Scripture had been a mystery to me. How can one wrestle against spiritual forces? Now I
realised that it wasn't a battle of flesh against spirit, but of God's Spirit against
these spirits of darkness.
Then the first
hundred demons left with much shouting and screaming, then the second hundred, and then
the third hundred. Up to that moment the face of that old 'sangoma' (witch) had retained a
dark and horrifying expression, but the instant the evil spirits left her, the expression
on her face changed abruptly. She looked like a saint who had been living in the presence
of our Lord and Master for many years. With the glory of heaven shining on her face and in
her eyes, she cried, "Oh how marvellous, Jesus has set me free! Jesus has broken
these chains of hell!"
After that witch
came the witch doctors, then the possessed, one after the other, day after day. For two or
three months we hardly had any sleep at all. Day and night we were so busy that we
sometimes didn't even have time to eat or change our clothes. The Spirit of God would
literally go into the peoples' homes and bring them to us. We asked every one of them,
"Who brought you here?
"How did you know that we were here? Who invited you?"
"Over and over again we received the same answers, heard the same story.
explain it, but it must have been God! A power within us has driven us to come here. We
can't sleep anymore, can't recover our peace of mind, all we can see are our sins!"
It was as if the
walls of Jericho were bursting asunder. The possessed came and identified the spirits that
were in them by name and number. Many of the things that occurred at that time we do not
even talk about, because people wouldn't understand them, they would seem like fairy
tales. But there is more between heaven and earth than our human mind can grasp. Such
things must be experienced before we are able to comprehend what they are all about.
Hundreds of people
flocked to where we were in Mapumulo. We could go out the front door of the building at
any time of the day, any day of the week and there would be a hundred, maybe two hundred
people standing outside. Hardened sinners would be weeping like little children.
"What's the matter?" we would ask. "We are sinners!" was the answer.
God's Spirit had convicted them of sin, of God's righteousness and their own
unrighteousness. It was as if the Day of Judgement had dawned.
I remember one raw,
heathen Zulu, a man from Msinga, who sat weeping in a room as if he had been beaten with a
club. Because he was making such a noise, I went into the room to see what was going on.
"What's wrong?" I asked him. "There is just one inch between me and hell -
just one more inch, and I'll be in that place," he cried. Again and again we had to
reassure those people and say to them, "The blood of Jesus can wash away all your
sins." "You can only say that," they would answer, "because you don't
know how grievously we have sinned." The conviction went so deep, that some of them
couldn't believe that Jesus could forgive them. A general confession didn't suffice
either. Every one of them had the urge to confess their sins individually and to call a
spade a spade. Then the light broke through and they received the assurance that Jesus had
forgiven their sins. Their faces shone like those of angels. They had come with tears, and
they left with joy in their hearts. Their lives had been changed, and all things became
new. The women returned home and their husbands declared in amazement, "What happened
to you? You have become a new person! You used to wear the trousers around here, you
always had the last word, and now, suddenly, you are submissive."
There was one man
who ruled his house with a rod. He didn't act like a human being, but more like a wild
animal. The change in his wife's life was so remarkable that he asked her in astonishment,
"But what's happened to you? When I used to come home drunk, there would be a
quarrel. Now you remain quiet." Instead of harshly calling her husband to account as
usual, she was now friendly, brought him warm water to wash his feet and would fold back
the blankets of his bed. He couldn't understand such a transformation and said to her,
"But what has happened to make such a thing possible? You used to get angry, and now
you don't say a word. I feel like a king. Have you been to see the Christians at Mapumulo
and become a Christian? Have you accepted the white man's God?" Then he added,
"If the white man's God has managed to tame you, although I couldn't accomplish that
with a rod, then it must be worth something." Many years ago, a famous
circus-director and lion-tamer here in South Africa declared, "Bring me any lion and
I'll tame it, but my wife I cannot tame." So you can imagine how surprised a man is,
when he suddenly finds his wife completely transformed. It was such a mighty testimony for
the Lord Jesus that this man, whose wife had become a Christian, also came to us and got
Children were also
converted, and when they returned home, their parents would ask them, "Children, what
has suddenly happened to you? You used to argue all the time. You grumbled at your
homework and your chores, and constantly back chatted. Now you are obedient and so eager
to do everything. What has changed you so much? Have you become Christians?" Then
parents would come and give their lives to Jesus.
God had kindled His
fire, and it spread through the valleys and the mountains, so that thousands were saved in
one week, yes, even in one day. That happened among the Zulus and the Xhosas in South
Africa. There is no limit to what God can do. The Lord Jesus once stood up in the midst of
a crowd during the Jews' feast of tabernacles, and cried with a loud voice, in spite of
the fact that the people wanted to kill Him: "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me
and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow
rivers of living water." May God grant that everyone who calls himself a Christian is
a real Christian, as the Scripture says. I don't believe that it is necessary to pray for
revival. Revival is the result of a life according to the Scriptures, which we should be
living daily. This means constantly progressing in intimate fellowship with Him, the
living God. He wants His church to be a pure bride who radiates His glory.
Accompanying Signs and
When God began
working on spirit, soul and body of the crowds which arrived in Mapumulo, that which is
reported in the Acts of the Apostles was repeated: signs and miracles occurred. We had
never explicitly prayed for such things. Our prayer had merely been, "Lord, rule
amongst us, for you are the Almighty God of old." Because we have experienced this
ourselves, we can't understand religious people who say, "God worked such things in
the first century, but not today." We testify to the fact that God is still the same
today, and that He rules on His throne!
We experienced that
the sick were healed, many of them without even being prayed for, simply by being there.
Some of them were healed suddenly, even before the service had begun, and others the Lord
touched during the service. There were people who cried out in their enthusiasm,
"We'll never take medicine again! We don't need that anymore." We earnestly had
to warn them against saying such a thing. How easy it is to make a vow, only to break it
later. When a person is well, he might say that he's never going to take medicine again,
but the devil is close by and hears it. He will then come down upon this person with all
his hordes from hell and cause him to get such a headache that he finally reaches for the
aspirin. In that moment he has broken his vow, and it will be held as sin against him. If
God doesn't impose such a law upon us, we shouldn't either. We advised those people,
"Rather say, If things stay the way they are, then, by God's grace, we can do
without medicine.' But don't make any promises which you won't keep afterwards." The
trouble is that we often make promises, and, before the sun goes down, we've forgotten
about them. But God doesn't forget. On the Day of Judgement He will ask us to give
account. That is why the Holy Scripture says, "When thou shalt vow a vow unto the
Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it
of thee: and it would be sin in thee" (Deuteronomy 23:21). I am mentioning this to
show how the Lord was working.
From that time on,
the Zulus no longer said that Christianity was the white man's religion. That was the end
of that saying. They had experienced that Jesus Christ was their God too.
I remember a blind
man, whose eyes had suddenly been opened, walking up and down, shaking his head and crying
again and again, "Jesus is my God! He is truly my God!" Sick people would be
brought in on stretchers and put on the ground. Sometimes, even before the service
started, they would rise and walk around.
Often these people
shake their heads and say, "We can't understand it. We heathens become Christians,
but we see the Christians becoming heathens again. We heathens get dressed, and the
Christians get undressed." Years ago it was difficult to differentiate among the
whites between Christian and non-Christian women. Today it isn't difficult anymore,
because we can even tell by the way they dress. Some of them are only half-dressed. Thus
we can understand why the heathens say this.
Once a man with a
huge tumour, which affected him in such a manner that he was lame from the hips down, came
to one of the services. Hundreds of people were sitting on the grass around him. All of a
sudden the people stood up and went to the other side without saying a word. I asked,
"What's the matter?" When I got there I understood their reaction. This man's
tumour had burst open and released such a terrible smell, that it was impossible to sit
there any longer. The co-workers came and cleaned the wound, washed the man, and, when
they had finished, he got up and walked around.
I can only give you
a few examples of all the things that happened. I feel as John, who said at the end of his
gospel, "And there are also many other things, which Jesus did, the which, if they
should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the
books that should be written." Although several books have already been written about
the revival, it seems as if they have just barely touched on all that God has done,
because God has done so much more than can be written down.
As God was thus
working amongst the sick, we were reminded of the girl who, in spite of our prayers and
struggles, had not been healed those six years before. We prayed to God again and said,
"O Lord, if that girl and her mother are still alive, couldn't you work in such a way
that we meet them again?" We were therefore thrilled when we saw the mother coming
into the tent with her daughter while we were holding a service in the New Hanover
district. That evening, God, in His mercy, touched that girl, and she was completely
It often happened
that a person who was healed or converted would be a blessing for his entire surrounding
area. After a few weeks we would usually be asked to come to that area to preach the
gospel, and every time we would encounter many people who were like fruit ripe for the
harvest. All this happened because of one person who had been converted and then many
others had been touched through him.
Once we were
invited to hold a meeting out in the open. We accepted, and promised to hold a service on
Tuesday at one o'clock. The Zulus aren't so particular regarding punctuality. If you fix
the time for one o'clock, then you can just as well come at two. We were accustomed to
things like that. But on that day we arrived at the arranged meeting place at 12:30 and
already found three to four hundred people gathered there. Astonished we asked, "Are
you here already? When did you arrive?" They answered, "Some of us have been
here since six o'clock this morning." Of course that wasn't the time they had left
their homes. Most of them had been en route for many hours. But, so great was their hunger
for the gospel, that they were prepared to cover a great distance, and even wait six to
seven hours before the service began. We therefore decided to begin immediately.
At that time we
made the services as short as possible, because very often there was no need to hold a
long sermon. They would tell us what they had to do as they had been mightily convicted of
their sins and had a great desire to confess them. I therefore went into an old farmhouse
to prepare a short message and said to the co-workers, "Before we pray for them, we
will give them a chance to settle their affairs with God."
At this point I
would like to say a few words about healing. As a rule we don't pray for healing before
the persons involved have settled their spiritual lives. Divine healing always begins in
the heart. The Bible teaches us in James 5:16, "Confess your trespasses to one
another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." Healing of the soul is
put first. So if one person says, "I suffer terribly from arthritis," and
another complains, "I get dreadful headaches," then we say to these people,
"Very well, thank you for telling us about your physical needs, but let us begin with
your spiritual illnesses. How do things stand in that respect?" There are people who
have anger in their lives. Anger is a terrible thing. Actually, God doesn't allow us to
pray if there is anger in our lives. For this reason Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:8 that men
should pray, "lifting up holy hands without wrath," without anger. So it is
contrary to God's Word and Will for any man to pray if there is wrath or anger in his
life. The Word of God has quite a lot to say about that. It even says that a man's prayers
will be hindered if he nurses bitterness against his wife, so he might just as well spare
his prayers. We are living in evil times in which everyone prays, whether his life is in
order with God or not. The Lord Jesus goes so far as to say, "Therefore if thou bring
thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee;
leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother,
and then come and offer thy gift" (Matthew 5:23-24). We must ask ourselves whether we
are lawbreakers, or whether we obey what Jesus tells us.
When people come
for counselling, we tell them that physical needs are secondary, and that spiritual
illnesses must be treated first. A spiritually ill person might be afflicted with
irritation, anger, resentment and many other things. To be liberated from them is a
thousand times more valuable than to be healed of physical ailments. In times of revival
it isn't even necessary to tell people such things. They will come and say, "We are
sick, but we won't worry about that! Pray for us that we may be healed spiritually."
In such meetings it sometimes happened that not one person left the place without having
cleansed his life and made peace with God. Sometimes the sun would go down and we had to
tell the people to go home. "No," they would say, "what is the use of going
home? For us that would mean gaining the whole world, but losing our souls. We want to get
right with God." Very often people had to wait for several days before they could get
an opportunity for counselling, but they wouldn't go home. Patiently they waited until
they had a chance. "We can't carry on living in sin," we would hear them say.
"We must bring them to the light. We need forgiveness of our sins." That's why
we wanted to keep the services as short as possible.
mentioned, I was busy preparing a short message, when a co-worker suddenly came to me and
said, "There's a Hindu woman outside who would like to speak to you." "But
that's impossible," I answered. "These people have been waiting for so long, let
her tell you what she wants and report back to me." So he went to speak to her, but
she was adamant and wouldn't confide in him. The co-worker returned and explained that she
would only see me. I sent him away again to let her know that I was too busy. This went on
for some time, so eventually I said, "All right, I'll come. It doesn't matter if
things don't go the way I like."
I found her
together with her sixteen-year-old daughter, and she told me this story: "Do you see
my daughter here? She has been mentally handicapped since birth, most probably due to
brain damage. I've taken her to see many doctors, and they all said that she was
incurable, that she would be like this till the end of her life. So I went to the Hindu
temples, but even our gods couldn't help her. Two weeks ago I met a black man, a Zulu, who
said to me, 'Why don't you take your daughter to Mapumulo? There are Christians there who
serve the Lord Jesus. If you take her there, they'll pray to Him and He will heal your
daughter.' When I heard that, I said, 'That is the God I want to serve!' The moment I said
that, my daughter was healed and was in her right mind. Here she is, you can speak to
I greeted her
daughter, I spoke to her, and she really was perfectly normal. "From now on, I want
to serve your God," she said. "Our gods failed, but your God has healed
We should shout it
from the mountain tops and proclaim it to all the world: There is no God like Jesus
Christ! When will the nations acknowledge that there is no Lord but Him: the Lord of all
Lords, the King of all Kings?
One of the hottest
spots in South Africa is the country around Tugela Ferry. For over a hundred years a war
had raged there, in which countless people were killed. The revival also soon broke out in
that area. We had scheduled services there one weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and
the place was packed to capacity. After the services, many people stayed behind for
spiritual counselling. Before the revival broke out, I usually asked the people to come
forward to accept Jesus, but after the revival broke out, it proved to be unnecessary. The
people stayed of their own accord. We read of the apostles that they didn't call anyone
forward at Pentecost either. In Acts 2:37 it says regarding Peter's sermon, "Now when
they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of
the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?'" And then they were told what to
do. I don't want to say that it is wrong to call people forward to accept Jesus. If God
leads that way, then one may do it.
After one of the
first services at Tugela Ferry, several hundred people stayed behind and declared,
"We can't go home without having made peace with God." I was very tired and said
to the co-workers, "I absolutely have to lie down and sleep a bit. If there is
anything you want, please come to my room." Around midnight, they came and called me,
"There are still a couple of hundred people that want prayer for healing." I
asked them, "Have these people been counselled and made peace with God? Have they
done what James says in his letter, 'Confess your sins one to another, and then
pray.'" "Yes," they answered, "we were able to speak with every one of
them. But now there are still more than two hundred left who should be prayed for in
particular." We knew that we couldn't pray for all those people individually, so we
decided to pray for them in groups. When there were so many people, we usually took two or
three percent of those seeking help, selected the most difficult cases and prayed for them
individually and then for the others collectively. This time there were ten blind people
there, and the co-workers asked, "Couldn't we pray for these blind people
separately?" I agreed to that. As we were going through the door into their room,
most of the blind people began crying, "We can see! We are healed!" So mighty
was His presence there, that the Lord Jesus had already touched them before they had come
into contact with a single human hand. All ten blind people were healed.
At this point I
would like to add an extraordinary event, which is closely related to the healing of the
ten blind people. On that Friday afternoon, a white co-worker was on his way to Tugela
Ferry with his lorry, which was jam-packed with people who wanted to come to the services.
Forty or fifty kilometres away from his destination he discovered a blind woman with a
child standing at the edge of the road, her hand raised to try to stop the lorry. The
driver pulled over and asked her what she needed.
heard," said the blind lady, "that there are services being held here somewhere,
and I would like to go, too. Could you please take me along?"
sorry," answered the driver, "but I haven't got any more room for you, the lorry
is completely full."
Some people can't
understand that there should be no more room on a vehicle, as long as there is still a
small bit of space free somewhere. They don't understand or care about weight limits, but
in this case the lorry was hopelessly overloaded. The brother attempted to explain the
situation to this lady. When she began to weep, he thought of a possible solution.
possibility is if one or two people get off voluntarily. Then you can come along."
But nobody was
prepared to stay behind in that unfamiliar wilderness. They finally had to leave the old
woman behind, weeping.
That was on Friday
afternoon. On Saturday evening, late at night, the ten blind people received their sight
at Tugela Ferry. And then a further miracle happened. On Sunday afternoon, as the white
co-worker with his overloaded lorry again passed the spot where they had left the woman
behind the other day, they didn't find a blind lady, but an overjoyed and radiant woman,
who also could see again. Rejoicing, she proclaimed that Jesus had healed her.
"When did it
"Late at night," answered the woman.
They compared the
time, and discovered that it had happened at exactly the same time the Lord had touched
the other ten. The Lord had seen into the heart of that woman and healed her in His grace.
Can one understand now why these people say, "There is no other God but Jesus!"
during that weekend in Tugela Ferry will remain unforgettable for all who experienced it.
A girl on a stretcher had been brought to the front near the pulpit. I noticed her during
the services on Friday and Saturday evening. She lay there like a corpse, immovable, with
her eyes closed. Not even her eyelids flickered. She couldn't move her fingers, except for
a single finger of her right hand, which could only be moved with an effort. Later I heard
her tale of woe:
She had been
completely paralysed for eighteen months and had been treated in five different hospitals,
but the doctors could do nothing for her. Her relatives brought her back home, and took
her from one witch doctor to the other. One of them used dreadful 'medicine'. He caught
frogs and fried them in a pan until they were boiling hot, then put them on the girl's
head, scalding her skin and hair, but the girl was not cured by this frightful 'therapy'.
Finally she was brought to Tugela Ferry by her sister, who was a teacher. The co-workers
told me that this eighteen-year-old girl, whose name was Anagreta, had asked that we pray
"But how can
we pray for her, if we don't even know her spiritual condition?" I asked them.
"Has she straightened things out, made her life right and made peace with God?"
"Yes," said the co-workers.
"But how can she do that, she can't even speak!" I asked in amazement.
"We did it by whispering into her ear, and asking her whether there was sin in her
At this point I
must emphasise that there is no use calling upon a person to accept the Lord Jesus, if he
doesn't know that he is a sinner. What's the use of trying to send a person with cancer to
the doctor, if he doesn't know that he has cancer? Show him that he has cancer, and he
will go to the doctor of his own accord, without being told. He will even be prepared to
go to a hospital and surrender himself to the knife of a surgeon.
I didn't give in
and continued to press my co-workers: "Does the girl even know that she is a
"How did you find that out?"
"We mentioned various sins and asked Anagreta whether she had ever been disobedient
to her parents, or whether she had been unfriendly, angry, unloving, or whether she had
ever lied, etc. By the way she moved her eyelid, we could understand whether she meant yes
or no. Finally we asked her, 'Would you like us to pray with you and ask the Lord Jesus to
come into your life to take your sins away?' Again we recognised by the way she moved her
eyelid that she agreed. We prayed with her, and now she would like us to pray for her
Then we experienced
how God's power was also revealed in that girl. It happened in the same night, in which
hundreds of other people were prayed for. We saw how the bones of her body began to shake
like the leaves of a tree when a breeze goes through them. An unseen force took hold of
her, lifted her out of bed onto her feet, and she started running! In an instant the Lord
Jesus had completely healed this girl.
Within a few
minutes, hundreds of people had gathered there. Nobody knew where they had come from.
There were no church bells ringing, no telephones. Many people who hadn't been present at
the service were suddenly there, among them three ungodly men who worked at the
magistrate's court in Tugela Ferry, and they asked, "Where is the girl that has been
healed?" We pointed to the girl and they explained, "We wish to speak with her
alone, without any Christians. Would you allow us to ask her a few questions?" We
agreed, so they took Anagreta to a room and cross-examined her. After a while they brought
the girl back and said to her, "The God who has healed you can kill the living and
raise the dead. He can do what nobody else can do. Be faithful to Him to the end!"
That was the opinion of unbelieving heathens.
The news of this
event spread like wildfire throughout the entire area. For a few days it was as if the
very air was charged with the presence of God. One must experience such a thing to
understand what I am talking about. People would come to that place and be convicted of
their sins, just by encountering the presence of the living God.
Next morning, the
co-workers asked me if they could take Anagreta to the Pomeroy prison, because her father
worked there. They took the Land Rover and drove there with her. When they knocked on the
prison door, it was her father who opened up. Astonished, he saw the co-workers and then
his daughter, who was walking towards him. At that moment he thought it might be just a
ghost, and he cried, "Is it you?" "Yes, father!" He was so filled with
joy at what he was seeing, that he forgot to close the prison door, and the co-workers
said to him, "You'd better lock the door, or your prisoners will escape!" Then
they told the happy father what had happened.
In conclusion, let
me bear witness to the fact that there is no greater power than that of our Lord Jesus
Christ. It was no lie when He said that all power in heaven and on earth was given unto
Him. That is what he called out to His disciples before His ascension into heaven. What
happened then? Some worshipped Him, but others doubted! It is difficult to believe that
all power is given unto Him, but it says explicitly in Matthew 28:18, "All power is
given unto me in heaven and in earth." For this reason His disciples are able to
carry out His command, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all
things whatsoever I have commanded you." What a God and what a Saviour! May God grant
that our lives do not bring dishonour to His name, but are such that people may recognise
that the Word of God is the Truth!
Over 32 years have
passed since the beginning of the revival in Mapumulo and yet the rivers of living water
are still flowing, indeed, they have constantly risen. The Word of God, from which this
mighty revival was born, continues to spread and is going forth in power locally and
The little Zulu
congregation has become a large mission with headquarters at Kwasizabantu (meaning: the
place where people find help) - not far from Mapumulo. Countless people continue to seek
and find help for spirit, soul and body. Since the revival began, there hasn't been a day
on which people haven't been convicted of sin, converted and found a living faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ.
The mission, though
it has buildings to house about 4,500 people, constantly has the problem of too little
accommodation because of the constant flood of people seeking the Lord. Hundreds, often
thousands, gather for daily services. Not only locals come for help, but people from all
over South Africa and from other countries and continents as well. One visiting minister
remarked that it is like the first Pentecost. When asked what he was trying to say he
declared, "I went around counting the people's different nationalities and arrived at
14 languages - and that at a single service!"
By God's gracious
guidance and miraculous provision an auditorium has been built to seat 10,000. Besides
regular Sunday meetings this massive structure is also used for special conferences for
youth, ministers, etc.
The revival centre
now has about 140 out-stations. Some of these out-stations have become mission centres for
their local areas.
Erlo Stegen is
assisted by a team of over 130 co-workers and about 150 temporary helpers at Kwasizabantu.
Teams are constantly invited to preach at schools, youth groups and to many different
Kwasizabantu mission is not a church-planting ministry, (if people are blessed, they are
encouraged to return to their own denominations to shine for the Lord,) there are a number
of groups in many countries officially associated with the ministry. Centres have been
bought or built in Germany, France, Rumania, Switzerland, the Netherlands and elsewhere
and are run in fellowship with Kwasizabantu brethren.
Since 1986 an
immensely successful private Christian educational institution, Domino Servite School, has
been training children from grade one through to grade 12. Over 500 children attend this
school at the mission and most of them are boarders because of the distance which many of
them have to travel. Besides DSS there are a number of other educational projects at the
mission, including:* Cedar College of Education - a private Christian college with a
four-year course to train teachers. It is accredited by Potchefstroom University of Higher
Christian Education.* Thabitha Adult School - a centre for training illiterate adults to
read and write and for giving further education.* A University of South Africa examination
centre - for those students and members of the local community who are studying with this
Over 20 other
projects are being run to generate funds. Kwasizabantu mission has a principle not to
solicit funds or send out letters appealing for donations. The 340 hectares of land are
used for intensive farming for use at the mission and to sell. Some of the projects
include:- a green house project of a huge hothouse and plastic tunnels produces vegetables
of the highest quality.- Kiwi vineyards produce fruit for local and international
markets.- a printing press to print locally produced pamphlets, newsletters and books.- a
jam factory which turns out tens of thousands of homemade jams and pickles for mission use
and for sale.- a bakery which bakes a minimum of 400 loaves a day and which sells bread
and confectionery.- a dairy and yoghurt production plant. Yoghurt is sold to shops,
hospitals and airline companies.- a water factory (Ekhamanzi) which produces bottled water
and juice for the South African and international market.
All this is to the
honour and glory of Jesus Christ, Who is working so mightily in His resurrection power in
spite of the fact that there are times of great opposition, negative assessments,
misinterpretations, and sometimes defamations (according to Matt 5:11). This should come
as no surprise, as wherever God is at work the devil is also there to do his dirty
counter-work. He is always upset when his prey is snatched from him and his kingdom
interfered with. Erlo Stegen and his fellow co-workers are determined, by the grace of
God, to stand on the principles of the Bible alone despite opposition or praise.
Let the godly
reader be inspired to intercede for this precious work of God that it might continue to go
forward in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The sceptics we
challenge with words of Philip to Nathaniel: "Come and see!"(April 1998)
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