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Sunday, January 14, 2018

posted Jan 14, 2018, 6:48 PM by Site Administrator

FAN INTO FLAME THE GIFT OF GOD

2 Timothy 1:1-12

Key Verses 1:6,7

 

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

 

       We thank God for giving us this chance to study the book of 2Timothy. In the book of Acts, we see the apostle Paul going to Rome in chain. He stayed in a rented house in Rome, teaching the Bible to everyone who came to see him, including the guards. During this time, he wrote "Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon." After that, he was tried, and was found innocent; so he was released. That was AD 62 or 63. So, Paul served God's work in Rome, and other surrounding countries - Crete, Miletus, Corinth and Nicopolis in Greece, and Troas and Ephesus in Asia (Titus 1:5; 3:12; 1Ti 1:3; 2Ti 1:17;4:9-20)  - that was his fourth missionary journey; he left Timothy in Ephesus, and Titus in Crete to serve the church there during this journey. He also wrote 1 Timothy and Titus from Nicopolis in Greece (Titus 3:12). Then, he was imprisoned the second time around 66 - 67, during the Emperor Nero's persecution. Unlike the first imprisonment when he was allowed to stay in a rented house with the guards, this time, he was put in a dungeon - dark, humid and cold. There, sensing that his mission had been completed and that his life was nearly at an end, he wrote 2Timothy. 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are pastoral epistles, in which Paul instructed these pastors how they should conduct themselves as pastors for the church of God. We are shepherds and shepherdesses, taking care of God's flock. So, the teachings of these books are very applicable for us. May God bless us to learn how we must serve God's work through studying the book of 2Timothy.

 

       First, "Fan into flame the gift of God" (1-7). Look at verses 1 and 2. "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, v2 To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." In Christ Jesus, there we find a special promise of God for all those who accept Jesus as the Savior - the promise of life. It is the promise of God that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have life, eternal life. This is an amazing promise - the promise of life, zoe. This promise is given to everyone who believes in him; so, according to this promise of God, we enjoy a new life, eternal life. But Paul says that he became an apostle of Jesus Christ according to this promise of life. It means that when this promise of life was applied to him, he became an apostle of Jesus Christ. This shows that the promise of life gives us not only eternal life, but also it makes us apostles of Jesus Christ. When you believe in Jesus, you receive two things according to the promise of life - one is eternal life, and the other is apostleship. Thus, all those who believe in Jesus come to enjoy eternal life and live as Jesus' apostles - they no longer live as bread seekers, but as apostles of Jesus Christ; thus, in Jesus Christ, God's mission is bestowed upon us, and our position as God's missionaries is restored as God originally planned in the beginning. According to this promise of life, you are sent into the world to represent Jesus, and take care of his business in this foreign country.

 

       The recipient of this epistle was Timothy. Paul calls him, "My dear son," showing his affection on him. Paul writes, "v3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers." Paul was in a dungeon, dark, humid and cold. In 4:13, Paul writes to Timothy, "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas..." Why did he need the cloak? Because it was very cold in the dungeon. In that difficult situation, there was one thing that made Paul happy and thankful. It was Timothy. Paul says, "I thank God... as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers." Whenever he prayed for Timothy, he was thankful. Why? Paul says, "Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy." The first thing that came to Paul's mind about Timothy was "his tears," showing that Timothy was a man of tears. When he heard some sad story, he shed tears; when he saw a blind beggar, he shed tears. When he shared his testimony, he shed tears; when he heard others' testimonies, he shed tears. His heart was so tender and he was so compassionate that he sensed others' pains and sorrows and shed tears. He was that kind of person. When Paul thought about his tears in his prayer, he was very thankful for his tender, merciful and compassionate heart. Recalling his tears, in his prayer, Paul, sometimes, was happy, sometimes, smiling, sometimes, giggling, and sometimes, laughing. Timothy was such a beautiful and precious person to him because of his tears. Recalling his tears, Paul longed to see him, so that he might be filled with joy. He was sure that, if Timothy saw him in prison, he would certainly shed tears! He also says, "I have been reminded of your sincere faith,..." Timothy was a sincere person. He had sincere faith; about his faith, about his life of faith - how he lived and what he did. In serving God's kingdom work together, Paul must have been encouraged and comforted by Timothy's sincere faith. Timothy was reliable and trustworthy. Paul understood that this good quality of Timothy was due to the good influence of his grandmother and mother who believed in Jesus with a sincere heart.

 

       How do people feel when they remember you? Feel burdened and worried? Or feel happy and thankful? Timothy's example shows us how we must live our life as people of God - obedient, loving and compassionate with sincere faith.

 

Look at verses 6 and 7. Let's read these verses together:

   

v6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. v7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

 

       In Paul's eyes, Timothy was well equipped and prepared to serve God's work greatly, because he was such a compassionate person and had sincere faith. Moreover, God gave him his gift so that he could do God's work effectively. Everything was ready for him to do mighty works of God. But because of one problem he had, he remained largely ineffective as God's servant. So, Paul urged him, saying, "Fan into flame the gift of God." It means to make the gift of God active and maximize its function. Fire was there, and now in order to make it flame up, you blow on it - fan into flame the gift of God. 

 

       "The gift of God" refers to the Holy Spirit. Contemporary English version translates this sentence, "God's Spirit doesn't make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control." Another version (GNB) writes, "For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control." What does it mean to have "a spirit of power"? It means that you are powerful, passionate and zealous in words and actions, challenging courageously despite odds. Jesus explains its meaning and purpose very clearly in Acts 1:8, saying, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth." Jerusalem was a dangerous city for the disciples to stay, let alone doing God's work, because the authorities, after killing Jesus, were now looking for them to kill them; they were Jerusalem's most wanted and policemen were after them. So, the disciples were hiding behind the locked doors. But when the Holy Spirit came on them on the day of Pentecost, the apostles picked up such confidence, courage and zeal for God's work that they went out and preached that Jesus was the Christ openly and publicly. That's the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit empowrs us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. College students who used to be so scared about their security matter and finals, go out and do God's work freely and wholeheartedly. That's the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. What about in deep pains and sorrows due to many failures and losses, yet, after praying, they rise and do God's work wholeheartedly? That's the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We all want to stay home and enjoy comfortable family life with our spouse and children - without God's intervention, all people pursue that kind of life - such a life is empty and meaningless; such people are all full of regret. But God gives us the Holy Spirit so that we may not live that kind of cursed life, but a powerful life of serving God's work as witnesses of Jesus Christ. God wants us to fan into flame the gift of God so that we may be really powerful, really zealous and wholehearted in doing God's work.

 

       In verse 7, Paul describes the gift of God, the Holy Spirit as "a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline." God giving us "a spirit of love" means that we can be so compassionate, sympathetic, understanding, caring and merciful. Before, we were not loving; we could not love even those who loved us; instead, we broke their hearts and made them shed a lot of tears in pain. But now God has given us a spirit of love - our humanity is restored, our heart is responsive, and we can love our family members, our brothers and sisters in Jesus, and students on our campuses freely; we live a very sacrificial life for God and his flock. We thank and praise God for changing us such selfish and self-centered people into sacrificial and loving shepherds for God's flock. Great change has occurred in our life because of God's grace. Now God encourages us to fan into flame a spirit of love so that our love may be complete for God, for God's flock and for God's people. Indeed, we are now participating in God's characters.

 

       A spirit of self-discipline makes you so diligent, patient, faithful, being able to focus on the task and completing it; it makes you abide by the rules and regulations, obedient, not rebellious, not lazy, not out of control,... With a spirit of self-discipline, you become reliable, effective, cooperative, and thereby, productive and useful. God gives us his gift so that we may become this kind of person - powerful, loving and diligent. So, fan into flame the gift of God.

 

       One interesting thing here is that the gift of God is the Holy Spirit, and it is also described as a spirit of power, love and self-discipline with a small letter "s" indicating our own spirit - the Holy Spirit when He lives in us, is directly related to our own spirit, and it is "we" who should pick up momentum, zeal and passion to fan into flame the gift of God - the Holy Spirit. Fanning into flame the gift of God is different than just standing there with hands up, and saying, "Give me the Holy Spirit! Empower me." Instead, God instructs us that we should, and we can fan into flame the Holy Spirit, coming up with our heart's determination that we will serve God's will wholeheartedly even in challenging situations. When we pick up such zealous spirit and pursue God's work wholeheartedly, the Holy Spirit works in and through us powerfully, and great salvation work occurs. Then, as a necessity rises, the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in and through us, doing many miraculous things. You already have the Holy Spirit - the gift of God - and you need to fan into flame God's gift, by coming up with your heart's complete determination that you will serve God only and wholeheartedly no matter what, and dedicate yourself to God's will and purpose with such passion. You show that kind of decisive and zealous and passionate spirit, then, the Holy Spirit works and manifests Himself in and through you freely. Fan into flame the gift of God!

 

       Second, "Join with me in suffering for the gospel" (8-12). Look at verse 8. Let's read this verse together:

 

"8So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God."

 

       In those days, Christianity was persecuted by the Roman Empire. The persecution from the government was very painful and harsh. They were caught and killed in Coliseum publicly. Being a Christian meant a lot of sacrifice, loss and sufferings. So, many believers shrank back and stopped talking about the Christ. Many deserted their faith. But Paul encouraged Timothy not to be ashamed to testify about Christ Jesus, even if he might be humiliated, even if he might remain poor. Instead, he urged Timothy to join with him in suffering for the gospel. Paul loved Timothy as his son. If he truly loved Timothy, it seemed that he should have asked Timothy to flee as quickly as possible so that Timothy might not have any suffering. That's what all parents wish for their children. Why then, did Paul ask his beloved son Timothy to join with him in suffering? It was because suffering for the gospel is something really glorious.

 

       In the world, success and achievements are what people brag about. But in Christ, that's not always the case. When some people challenged him about his apostleship, Paul could have talked about how many disciples he had established and how many churches he had planted; but instead, he just talked about how much he had suffered for the gospel. For God's people, suffering for the gospel becomes their glory. We hear the story of God's servant who gave up a comfortable life as a judge, but became a missionary, working at Tacobell at $3.25 per hour. How does it sound? It sounds glorious and we are really amazed. We hear so many stories of God's people about how they serve God's work despite great sufferings; then, their sufferings for the gospel become their glory. What about a sister who had no bus money that she walked to school taking 2 hours, for fishing and Bible study? It's glorious. Some of our shepherds and shepherdesses visit school after long day's work, and even though there are not that many students, they struggle hard to fish students; that's suffering, and it is glorious. We receive many rejections and some young kids ridicule us, but we keep doing God's work; that's suffering, and it is glorious. Great success and achievements we don't like to talk about, because we feel really shy about them, for we know that it is God who has done all those things. But in our testimony, we are happy to talk about all the sufferings and pains we had for the gospel, saying, "But God helped me to go on continually by faith," and people say, "Amen." Suffering for the gospel is our glory. Yet, still, it is not easy to encourage anyone to join in suffering for the gospel; instead, when anyone is in suffering, we want to comfort, saying, "God will help you." But Paul encouraged his beloved disciple Timothy to join with him in suffering for the gospel. Paul encourages us to join with him in suffering for the gospel. Those who suffer for the gospel are really blessed, because, in time, their suffering for the gospel will turn to be their glory in Jesus Christ. Fishing at school is suffering. Wrestling with sheep is suffering. Doing God's work despite all challenges inside and out is suffering. Let's not be ashamed to be poor for the gospel - it will turn out to be our glory. Let's not be ashamed to be ridiculed by some people - it too will turn out to be our glory. Let's not be ashamed to be persecuted by our family members. Let's join with all God's people in suffering for the gospel.   

 

       Paul says, "Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God." Choosing disgrace rather than honor, choosing suffering rather than a comfortable life, is not something we can do naturally. Naturally, we want comfort and security, success and luxury, instead of suffering. But with God strengthening us, God’s people can choose to let go of such a desire for success, and choose even disgrace for Jesus. How? When God’s grace is given us; when the word of God touches our hearts personally; when we experience God’s grace deeply in prayer; when we hear God’s voice,… then all those worldly and physical desires that have captured us tightly are shattered to pieces and we are set free to love God and obey God’s command. By the power of God, we can join in suffering for the gospel freely.

 

Look at verses 9 and 10. Let's read these verses together:

 

9who has saved us and called us to a holy life-- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

 

       This passage describes the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ very well. Here, Paul describes God as the one who has saved us and called us to a holy life. These are what God has done for us - his salvation and calling to a holy life. Why did he do so? Paul says, "not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace." We didn’t deserve this kind of favor or a new chance, because we were sinful, lowly and ignoble; fundamentally, we were objects of God's wrath. But God, based on his own decision and purpose, chose to save us, and called us to a holy life; even before we ever demonstrated our worth, even before we did anything good for him, He already chose us, saved us and called us to a holy life. This shows that He is good, and his intension for us is only good. God saved us and called us to a holy life. This is grace.

 

       These two blessings - God's salvation from misery and God's calling to a holy life - are God's grace given to each of us in Jesus Christ. God's salvation is God's grace that gives us a second chance; so don't mess up again. God's calling to live a holy life is God's grace that blesses us to live as children of God. The word, "holy" means, simply, "different." We must live this new life in Jesus in a different way than we used to live - no more selfish and self-seeking life, but the life that is for God. We must live our life differently than the way the people of the world live. How? By living according to God's words! By living in obedience to God's will and purpose! Many people abuse God's grace of salvation, regarding it as a license to sin. Also, many people consider God's calling as something burdensome, saying that such calling or mission is for only some special people like pastors or missionaries, but not for them. But we receive this salvation and calling from God at the same time. When there is God's salvation in someone's life, then, there is God's calling for that person to live a holy life. Simply, God saved us so that we can live a holy life. Romans 1:5 says, "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship..."

 

       Paul says that this grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. Paul received his calling while he was on the way to Damascus when he was a young man. But Paul's understanding was that it was only revealed to him at that moment, but God had had a plan for him even before the beginning of time. This new life in God is not something that happened in our lives by accident or instantaneously, but according to God’s set plan he had even before the beginning of time. It didn’t happen because of our shepherd’s choice or good luck, but everything happened according to God’s plan that had been set before the beginning of time. This shows that he knew us when we were born; he knew us when we were wandering in sin and darkness; he had followed us wherever we went. It means that he arranged all things so that we could finally open our hearts to him and turn to him in repentance; he knew us. While we were going astray, we were not alone, but God followed us to such lowly and dark places, protected us and brought us back to him. God’s grace upon us is indeed marvelous. This salvation we enjoy, this calling we have in Christ then, are absolute. By the will of God, I am saved; by the will of God I am a shepherd today; by the will of God I am serving God's work. I have been known to Him all this time.

 

       In verse 10, Paul explains how this plan of God for us, which he had had even before the beginning of time was revealed, saying, "it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." This grace of God that he saved us and called us to a holy life has been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Jesus. How? By him destroying death and bringing us life and immortality through the gospel - his death and resurrection. God’s grace that had started even before the beginning of time was fulfilled and given to us through the gospel of Jesus. Through the gospel, God's grace of salvation and calling to a holy life is given to all peoples on earth. This is the importance of Jesus our Savior. This is the importance of the gospel. All people must hear this good news of Jesus Christ, their Savior. The gospel must be preached to the ends of the earth.  

 

       Paul says, "11And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12That is why I am suffering as I am." Here Paul describes why he was suffering. A herald is a messenger who runs ahead carrying and proclaiming important news. An apostle is an ambassador representing the country he is sent by in a foreign land. A teacher shows the main method in carrying out this important task, that is, teaching. The gospel is important because it carries the grace of God for the people of the world - God's salvation and God's calling to a holy life. Through the gospel, the grace of God can be fulfilled in the world. For this important gospel, Paul was appointed as a herald, an apostle and a teacher. So, in order to fulfill his task, Paul ran hard, going ahead of everyone, teaching people the word of God diligently as an ambassador of the kingdom of God in a foreign land called, the world. Then, very naturally, he faced many hardships and sufferings - he had to travel a lot; he had to walk a lot; he had to speak a lot, spending many hours; he had to wrestle with many people; sometimes, he had no money for food; sometimes, he had shipwreck and was in the water for many days; sometimes, people hated him for his message; sometimes, people were jealous of him and attacked him. But despite all these difficulties, challenges and hardships, he kept serving his task given by God. “That is why I am suffering as I am.”

 

       Sometimes, we have to drive a lot even when we don't have that much gas money. Sometimes, we have sun burns for fishing many hours; sometimes, our sheep whom we have loved so much just go away without saying good bye. We have this suffering all because we carry this important gospel that contains the grace of God for many people. Of this gospel, we are appointed heralds, apostles and teachers. Through us, the gospel is given to many; through us, God's grace of salvation and calling to a holy life is given to many people. "That's why I am suffering as I am."

 

Look at verse 12. Let's read these verses together:

 

12That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

 

       Now Paul was in a dungeon, and there he was suffering and languishing. He would die soon. But Paul was not sad or fatalistic at all, because he knew whom he had believed, Jesus Christ. His life was not a failure; his life of serving Jesus Christ was glorious. Moreover, he was convinced that Jesus would guard what he had worked for. What he had worked for would not be in vain, even if he died; instead, Jesus would guard it, grow it and make it fruitful, and on the last day, he would see what he had worked for, and be glad, receiving great reward from Jesus. Even if we lose everything in this life - wealth, promising future, even health, we are not ashamed because we know whom we have believed - Jesus Christ our Lord. He will not disappoint us. He is able to guard what we have entrusted to him for that day.

 

One Word:      I Know Whom I Have Believed

 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

posted Jan 7, 2018, 10:33 PM by Site Administrator

THROUGH HIM AND FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE

 

Romans 1:1-7

Key Verse 1:5

 

Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

 

            The book of Romans is the most systematic exposition of Christian faith. The Apostle Paul wrote this book probably in 58 A.D in Corinth. After having spread the gospel in Asia and Europe, he wanted to visit Rome (Rm 15:23), but, first he wanted to take all the offerings of the Gentile churches to the Jerusalem church (Rm 15:25-28). But the Holy Spirit testified that chain and suffering were waiting for him in Jerusalem. He was not sure if he would live or die in Jerusalem. So Paul wrote this book for the Christians in Rome to show the essence of the gospel of Jesus, in case he would die in Jerusalem. So this book is Paul’s Testamentary Epistle to the saints in Rome. Through this passage, we can see who we are, and what we are to do and how we must live our life as Christians.

 

            First, "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus" (1). Look at verse 1. Paul introduces himself saying, "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God--" He calls himself a servant of Christ Jesus. In those days, "servant" belonged to the slave class. Being a slave was not pleasant at all for anyone – no freedom, no right, no self-esteem, no nothing. But slaves belonging to prominent families regarded their enslavement to their master great honor. In the movie, "Ben Hur," the servant of Hur family, regarded his position great honor and privilege. To Paul, being a servant of Jesus Christ was immeasurably great honor and privilege to be proud of. So, this is his first title as he introduces himself to others. He was happy to be known as a servant of Jesus.

 

            Being a servant to anyone means to live according to the commands of the master being restricted in freedom, will, desire and right. Actually, when we think about this carefully, we can see that no one is truly free; instead, all people are serving someone, or something. Some people are salves to sin, doing what their sinful desire wants them to do, even at the cost of ruining their future, their family and their life. Some people are serving their own dreams and desires for success in the world, pouring out everything they have for them. Some people are serving their fear – the fear of security – doggedly struggling to pay the bills and to build their career. The Bible suggests that eventually, people live as slaves either to God or to sin and Satan. Whom do you want to serve? Living as slaves to our sinful nature, or our worldly desires or pride is disgusting! Surely, being a servant of Jesus Christ is a glorious and honorable thing.

 

            Paul says, "Called to be an apostle." To Jesus, he was a servant, but to God’s flock, he was an apostle. "Apostle" means "the one who is sent." This was an official term for the Roman ambassadors. This title showed that there was someone who sent him, and also there was a clear purpose in sending him. Calling himself as an apostle showed that he never forgot who he was and why he was living – he never forgot His owner, Jesus Christ who sent him, and why Jesus sent him to the world. He knew who he was, why he was there, and what he should do very clearly. The phrase, "Called to be an apostle" indicates that being an apostle of God to God’s flock was not from Paul's own decision or merit, but from God’s irresistible calling. His apostleship did not come from his own struggle or decision, but from God. Actually, he had not been with Jesus; he was not one of the Twelve apostles; he had no certificate to show people about his apostleship. Yet, he still had confidence that Jesus had called him and sent him to the world for his mission. So no matter what people said about his apostleship, he did not care. He had confidence of what he was doing as an apostle of God for the Gentiles, because Jesus called him to be an apostle.

 

            Paul says, "Set apart for the gospel of God." The words, "Set apart" is "separated" in KJV. The same words we can use for this expression is "holy," "consecrated," or "sanctified." There were so many believers, but among all of them, Jesus set apart Paul for a special task. Paul knew for what specific mission he was assigned to do. Some other people maybe to the ministering for the poor, or for the music ministry, and so on. But Paul knew that he was specifically separated from all other believers to serve the gospel of God. Jesus entrusted the gospel, the word of God, to Paul for the Gentiles. Because he knew this, in his mission life, he did not struggle to do all kinds of good and important things such as taking care of homeless people or going to the hospital for patients there, or visiting the prisons. Instead, he focused on visiting cities in the world and preaching the gospel to them; he focused on teaching and preaching the gospel to all the Gentiles.

 

            Here, we see Paul's clear sense of identity as a servant of God. In his business card, he introduced himself this way: Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. He knew who he was, why he was living and what he must do. As a God worshiper, he did not struggle to do all kinds of good things; he didn't pay attention to all good Christian ministries either. When people from other ministries talked to him about what they were doing and how they were serving God, he appreciated what they were doing and encouraged them, saying, "Good job!! Do it all the more!" And then, he focused on his own ministry – the ministry of serving the gospel of God, preaching the gospel in every city he visited – because that's what God wanted him to do, and that's what he was living for. For what did Jesus set us apart? To teach the word of God to college students in America and in the world! For this purpose, he entrusted his words to us. Let's put our name here, instead of "Paul," and "a shepherd and Bible teacher for college students" instead of "an apostle." "John Baik, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be a shepherd and Bible teacher for college students, set apart for the gospel of God." When we have this keen sense of God's calling and mission, we see everything clearly - who we are, what we are to do, and how we must live our life; at that time, our Christian life is no longer about doing all kinds of Christian things, or of trying to do some good things here and there; instead, it is about obeying God's will upon our life, dedicating ourselves to God's mission completely, and striving to fulfill it. Such people are not in darkness or confusion, but in the bright light. 

 

            Second, "The gospel regarding his son" (2-4). Look at verses 2 through 4. Let's read these verses together:

 

2the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

            Now here in verses 2 through 4, Paul talks about the gospel, which he was called for, and which he was living for. In verse 1, he described the gospel as "the gospel of God," showing that God was the cause, initiator, author and owner of the gospel; God planned the gospel, pursued it and completed it. So, the gospel is God's gospel. Paul says, "the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures..." showing that the foundation of the gospel is God's promises in the Holy Scriptures – the Old Testament. The gospel did not pop up out of nowhere like Quran or Mormon Bible. It is not a clever, man-made story either. Rather, the contents of the gospel had been prophesied in the Old Testament for a long period of time about four thousand years, and the gospel was finally made as all the prophecies were fulfilled in and through Jesus. The gospel came to exist through the fulfillment of all the promises of God found in the Old Testament in and through Jesus - this is the authenticity and trustworthiness of the gospel.

 

            In verse 3, Paul says, "regarding his Son," showing that the content of the gospel is his Son – who he was, how he was born into the world, what he did and said, his suffering, death, and resurrection. In verses 3 and 4, Paul talks about the humanity and deity of the Christ. As to his human nature, the Christ was a descendant of David. But he was more than a human, because he was the Son of God – he was God. How can you say that he was God? Paul says that the Christ was declared with the power to be the Son of God through his resurrection from the dead.

 

            Death had been the king over all mankind throughout human history. All men knelt down and gave into death. When death commanded, people had to stop everything they had been doing, leave everything behind – their family, their wealth, their plan, their desire, their knowledge, their fame, and their love – and follow the command of death. No one could resist against death.  But Jesus rose from the dead. When you die, as your heart stops, the body rapidly cools down until it reaches room temperature. Then, without heart pumping, blood coagulates in veins, arteries, and capillaries, causing the entire body to stiffen. Then, in 24-72 hours, the internal organs decompose. When we think about this natural process of dead body turning to the earth, we can see that once a person dies, and when 1 or 2 days pass, it is impossible for anyone to come back to life. But Jesus was dead for two days, and on the third day, he rose again from the dead, completely refreshed, yet still with marks on his wrists and ankles and on his side. With such marks, he visited his disciples and talked with them and ate with them, encouraging them to have faith in God and giving them a clear direction of what they should do. To him, death was like a short time of sound sleep. Once he rose again from the dead, death had no hold on him any longer; he was above and beyond the power of death. Since then, he lives forever. What kind of person is he, the one who is more powerful than death and lives forever? He is God. Through his resurrection, he was declared to be the Son of God. This is the good news – Jesus Christ our Lord, the Son of God, rose again from the dead, defeating the power of death, declaring the victory over death for all mankind. Now in him, we have hope to live beyond death; in him we have hope for real life without death - the hope of eternal life. This is the good news the gospel of God talks about. This is what we preach day and night. The gospel we preach brings people victory over the power of death. All people need to hear and believe the good news.

 

            The gospel is about the promised Savior who came as our King in the line of David according to God's promises in the Bible. And the gospel is about the Son of God who came into the world in the form of a human being to help mankind - that's good news. Such an event was a universal event – the appearing of God in the form of a human is a universal event; what he has to say, and what he does are universal – everything about him is the good news to human beings. Everything about him is the most important news. Paul was a servant of this person, Jesus Christ, God’s promised king, and the Son of God. He was proud to be a servant of the Son of David and the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

 

            We are servants of this Person, Jesus Christ, our Lord – the Savior of the world and the Son of God. While all peoples on earth live as slaves to sin, while they pursue worthless things in this world, we live as servants of Jesus Christ, and we pursue His will and purpose. This is our pride. In the year 2018 and beyond, let's serve him with our true loyalty and faithfulness. We all may be found as good and faithful servants to Jesus.

 

            Third, "Through him and for his name's sake..." (5-7). Look at verse 5. Let's read this verse together:

 

5Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

 

            In verses 1 through 4, Paul talked about himself and the gospel. Now, in verses 5 and 6, he talks about great things that happened to us because of the Son, the Savior of the world. Great things happened to us who believed. Great changes occurred to us. The expression, "Through him," shows that all blessings of God become available for us through Jesus Christ - all great changes that have happened in our life (from sinners to saints, from slaves of sin to slaves of God) were done through him. Paul used to be an enemy of God, destroying young believers, but through Jesus, he became a servant of God, an apostle of Jesus. Through Jesus, we have received all blessings one after another and have become what we are. The cause and origin of all our changed life is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him, we are here today as new people.

 

            The phrase, "for his name's sake" shows the purpose of all these blessings that have been given to us, and all changes that have happened in our life; it is for Jesus' name's sake. The purpose of this new life we have in Jesus is for his name's sake. Before, we lived for ourselves – for our own pleasures, purposes and fulfillment; we pursued our own happiness, striving to fulfill our dreams and desires. At that time, how was our life? It was terrible. We were sinful, violent and harmful. We were a source of headache and trouble to our parents, our siblings, our classmates, our friends and to our society. We bore the fruit of death such as loneliness, depression, insomnia, deep sense of emptiness, and we were suicidal – it was horrible. Now by God's marvelous grace in Jesus Christ, we have this new life; we are given a new chance to live our life. In this new life, should we live in the way we used to live? No way! We know how it will go and what will eventually happen – that horrible life we don't want to even think about. So, we must not live for ourselves any longer. Instead, we must live this new life "for his name's sake." What does it mean to live for his name's sake? It means that through us, through our struggles and obedience, Jesus' name may be honored, respected and revered; his name be glorified. Before, we were concerned about our image and pride that when someone ignored us, or despised us, we were sad and angry. But now we should not be angry for our name's sake. Who are we? Nobody! Just servants! Slaves who have even no human rights! How we are treated, whether respected or despised, what big deal is it? Nothing! Instead, we must be sad and angry when the name of our Lord Jesus is not honored, when people do not revere him, when people ignore him and disobey him. For his name's sake, today we live. This is our life purpose in Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God's creation purpose is restored in our life.  

 

            Paul says, "we received grace and apostleship." Through him and for his name's sake, we received many blessings; great changes have occurred in our life. But Paul sums up all the blessings we received through Jesus, saying, "we received grace and apostleship," because these two – grace and apostleship – make all the differences compared to our old life. What is the difference between our old life and our new life in Jesus? In our new life, we have grace and apostleship, which we received through Jesus. Here, "grace" refers to God's grace of forgiveness given to you in Jesus. Only because of your acceptance of Jesus, only because of your faith in him, God did great thing for you that He blot out all the records of your sins and does not remember them any longer; your record of sin is deleted by God. You are innocent in God's eyes in Jesus Christ. This was such great blessing we found in Jesus Christ. Thus, we could start all over again, without being bothered by our record of sins. We started our life newly in Jesus Christ, our Savior. In this new life, now we must not live our life however way we like, because we know that there are many dangers, and we need to walk on the right path very carefully. Thus, in Jesus Christ, all believers become very sincere and careful as we strive to live in the right way. Paul later says in chapter 8 that we have now this obligation to put our sinful nature under our full control by living according to the desire of the Holy Spirit; if we do so, we will have life and glory; but if we live according to our sinful nature even after experiencing God's grace, we will die. (Rm 8) Thus, in Jesus, now we Christians know how we must live our life – not according to our sinful nature, but according to the desire of the Holy Spirit. When you live according to the desire of the Holy Spirit, you come to have a chance to meet Him and experience Him and know Him more and more, and as you have life together with God that way, your person will be like Him. God's grace that is found in Jesus Christ our Lord leads us to the life together with God. This is such a great blessing.

 

            But we did not receive grace alone in and through Jesus; we received one more blessing, that is, "apostleship." This apostleship means "mission assignment" or "calling." Paul was an apostle. So, if he said, "Through him and for his name's sake, I received grace and apostleship," we say, "Of course. We know that well." But Paul does not say that way. Instead, he says, "we" referring to not only himself, but also all the saints in Rome, and not only them, but also all Christians including you and me. Wait a minute! I know I received God's grace of forgiveness in Jesus. I am really thankful for that. But do you mean that I received God's special and personal mission assignment so that I can go and do his work as his ambassador, representing his kingdom? Paul says, "Yes, you did!" And God confirms, "Yes, you did." We all Christians received apostleship – mission assignment to go and do his work as his ambassadors, representing God's kingdom here on earth. This is all believers' true position and title. This indicates us what kind of life we are to live as Christians. Simply, this apostleship is God's personal mission assignment for us. Now we live as Jesus' apostles, God's ambassadors, striving to do what God assigned us to do just in the same way the apostle Paul focused on serving God's calling for him. That's what Christian life is about - not the life of doing Christian things endlessly, not the life of being nice to others, but the life of serving and fulfilling God's mission upon our life.

 

            This apostleship is great blessing. Because of this apostleship, we know what to do and where to go with our new life in Jesus very clearly. Because of this apostleship given through Jesus, we no longer live in confusion or darkness, but we can see everything clearly. In Christ Jesus, now I know what to do with my life. Through this apostleship, our life finds direction, meaning and purpose. Because of this apostleship, we have a chance to do something truly meaningful and bear good and lasting fruit in our life. Because of this apostleship, we have a chance to serve the Creator God. As we strive to serve God's mission, our Christian life is not boring at all; instead, it is very dynamic, passionate and powerful; we truly enjoy our life in Jesus, and as we serve such an important mission of saving souls, as our life is so meaningful and precious, as our life bears great fruit, we are truly happy and satisfied. Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship! Hallelujah!

 

            Then, Paul gives us more description about apostleship, saying, "to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith." This is the summary of all the tasks given to all the believers in Jesus Christ – calling all God's people from among all unbelievers in the whole world to the obedience through the believers fulfilling their mission assignments. This is Jesus’ world mission vision when he says, "19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."" (Matt 28:19-20)

 

            The expression, "All the Gentiles" means all unbelievers. Among all unbelievers, there are people who have been looking for the truth, and when we teach them the Bible, they respond to the truth and come out. We support them, strengthen them and help them so that they may live their life in obedience to God's will and purpose. The scope is "all the Gentiles." All the believers, therefore, are obligated to bring the gospel of Jesus to all the unbelievers. All the believers are debtors to the world because they are entrusted with the good news of salvation for the whole world.

 

            And the expression, "to the obedience that comes from faith" shows the ultimate goal of all believers' mission. There are so many different churches and ministries God operates - homeless ministries, hospice ministries, prison ministries, campus ministries, churches in America, churches in Africa, churches in China, Korea and Middle East. God's calling for each church, for each believer may be different, so their styles and targets and methods may be different. But eventually, the ultimate goal of all these churches and ministries worldwide is the same, that is, to call their targeted people - either prisoners or college students or homeless people, whoever, to the obedience that through their service and challenge, through their teaching and encouragement, all these new believers live their life in obedience to God's will and purpose.

 

            How can people live in obedience to God's will and purpose, even willing to deny themselves and entrusting their life in God's hands? Paul says, "to the obedience that comes from faith." Such obedience to God's will and purpose comes from having faith in God – those who believe in God can do so. Those who do not have real faith in God are scared that their life will be ruined, if they do not struggle to secure their life by themselves; so, instead of putting their trust in God who will take care of them and bless them, they strive to secure their life on their own, even rejecting God's will and purpose upon their life. Obedience to God's will and purpose is the expression of one's real faith.

 

            When we think about this ultimate goal of our mission life, we can see that serving God's work is different than a volunteer service. We cannot be content with the fact that we spent our time and money for some good cause in doing God's work. Instead, we must aim on this ultimate goal that through our service and shepherding, all our sheep may be brought to the obedience that comes from faith.  

 

            At the same time, this ultimate goal shows us what kind of struggle we must have as Christians – we must grow up as men and women of obedience. When Abraham’s obedience was complete to God, God’s training was over; God's mission was over in his life. When Jesus’ obedience to God was complete, he achieved what God had desired. How far or close am I to this ultimate goal? God’s purpose upon each of us is to bring us to the obedience that comes from faith.  

 

            Look at verse 6. So far, Paul introduced the gospel, and he shared his pride of being a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, the substance of the gospel. It is such glory that we have any part with this glorious occasion. Now, Paul says, "You also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus." We have partaken in the most important news in the entire human history. We belong to Jesus Christ, the substance of the gospel of God. This is our pride. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

One Word: Through Him And For His Name's Sake, We Received Grace and Apostleship

 

 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

posted Dec 31, 2017, 11:01 PM by Site Administrator

I WILL RAIN DOWN BREAD FROM HEAVEN FOR YOU

 

Exodus 16:1-36

Key Verse 16:4

 

4Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.

 

            First, “Manna training” (1-4; 6-21). Look at verse 1. When the Israelites came to the Desert of Sin, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt, they grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” When they had left Egypt, they carried dough, which didn’t contain the yeast, so during this entire journey thus far, they had eaten unleavened bread. For one whole month, three times a day, seven days a week, they had eaten the same dish – unleavened bread. As you know, unleavened bread is not yummy at all, and eating this unleavened bread for one whole month was not easy for anyone. They endured the pain of eating the unleavened bread all the way thus far. How would you respond that you are to eat the unleavened bread for three times a day, seven days a week, and for one whole month? Surely it is not easy to eat it for even one week. Now after one month, all the food they had was gone, and in the desert, there was nothing to eat. Maybe, after skipping the meals one or two times, they could not bear such difficulty and fear any longer. So, the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.

 

            In their grumbling, they said that in Egypt they had sat around pots of meat and ate all the food, but in the desert now, they were going to die for starvation. Actually, their life in Egypt as slaves was really terrible; their life was bitter. But there was one thing that was really good – from time to time, they were assigned to take care of the meat pots, and thereby, when the eyes of the slave drivers were not on them, they ate the meat freely – it was yummy. They did not talk about how bitter their life was, but how yummy the meat was – the one thing that was good, and they yearned for their life in Egypt. In this way, they said that life in Egypt was good, and life in God was not so good. Their point was, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt when we were enjoying life very well? Only because you brought us out of Egypt, now we are suffering so terribly.” God worked hard to save them; he sacrificed a lot for them. But now they were blaming God for his salvation. It was great insult at God. Many people blame God in the same way; they complain for this new life, because they cannot play video games any longer, or cannot have wild parties any longer.

 

How did God respond to their grumbling? Look at verse 4. Let’s read this verse together:

 

4Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.

 

            Instead of punishing them, God was going to give them food from heaven. “I will rain down bread from heaven.” The expression, “rain down,” means “abundance.” God would give them food from heaven abundantly. In the desert, nothing would solve their bread problem. If they imported wheat, then, for each meal, they would need about 10,000 bags of wheat, each 50 lbs, every meal, 900,000 bags every month. Or if they used the flocks and herds they had, then, for each meal, they would need about 10,000 cows, or 100,000 sheep; soon, all of their animals would be gone, but still they would be hungry. It was impossible for them to survive in the desert. But God rained down bread from heaven in the desert everyday for the next 40 years without missing even one time. They grumbled that God had brought them into the desert to die for starvation. But God fed them with unknown bread for forty years. In the year 2017, sometimes, we suffered financially; sometimes, we were scared of our job matter. But now at the end of the year, as we look back, we can see that God has taken care of us very well; He has never been late. We must believe in God’s abundant provision; believe that God will give you a good job.

 

            But God’s purpose was not to just solve their food problem alone. If it was for solving their bread problem alone, God could have fed them in many other fancy and convenient ways – he could ask them to prepare a table for each household, and then, when they woke up, the table would be full of delicious foods just like in Disney Fairy tales; or, God would ask them to prepare a jar for each family, then, when they woke up, they would find that the jar was full of wheat, and as in the case of Elijah and Elisha, or in the case of Jesus feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, the jar would be always full with wheat. Or God would have given them monthly or yearly bread, and it would be convenient both for God and the people. But instead, God gave them bread from heaven every day, so every day, the Israelites had to go out and gather food – each person going out of their tent and gathering bread, instead of comfortably staying home and sleeping – that was God’s training topic.

 

            Verses 13 and 14 reads: That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.” It was white like a coriander seed, and it tasted like wafers made with honey – it was sweet. They called it “Manna,” which means, “What is it?”

 

            God gave them bread from heaven, but there were some practical things the Israelites had to do to secure food from God. God commanded them in verse 16, “Each one is to gather as much as he needs.” Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and each person in the community had to go out and gather Manna for himself or herself. Also, verse 21 shows that as the sun grew hot, it melted away. In the desert, the sun grows hot so quickly. So, they had to get up early in the morning to gather Manna; if they were late, they had to fast that day. So, in order to get up early in the morning, they went to bed early. God never said that they should not have any party, but when it was around 10 or 11 PM, they had to stop it and dismiss, so that they would be able to get up early in the morning the next day. Because of Manna, now they had to control themselves and adjust their daily schedule around it. In that way, they learned to live according to God’s commands, controlling their fleshly desires according to God’s schedule in the morning.

 

            God says in verse 4, “In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.” Collectively it seemed that they followed God’s instructions very well because they were following the guidance of the pillar of fire and cloud. But God wanted to see if they would follow his instructions very specifically. Would they obey God’s instructions specifically, willing to deny themselves? Or would they just follow the trend mindlessly? God wanted them to be like well trained soldiers, living according to his commands, instead of doing whatever they felt like doing. For this, He wrestled with them, training them through food, for the next 40 years. Why did God do so? It was because he had a great vision for them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for the whole world. His vision for them was that he would establish each one of them as a priest, so holy and powerful, who would be able to serve many nations. Because of this great hope and vision for them, God did not leave them in misery as slaves; instead, God wrestled with them to remove all flesh-oriented lifestyles and habits through Manna training. After receiving this Manna training for forty years, these slave people would come out as the mighty army of God, and God used as his instruments of judgment on the sinful people of Canaan.

 

            God wants us to be like well-trained soldiers. There are some specific instructions for our Christian life such as worship service, or testimony writing, or fishing, conference, or many other things. And then, He says, “In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.” How do you respond? Some people respond rebelliously, saying, “In the New Testament we are free from the law,” and they ignore whatever God says in the Bible; instead, they just do whatever they see fit or they do as their situation allows; as a result, they never grow in God; they are not reliable at all just like undisciplined civilians. But those who receive this training before God sincerely, making all possible efforts to do what they are asked to do despite their hectic schedule and challenging circumstances, grow strong and mature; they become reliable; we know that once a task is given them, no matter what, they will do it. Such people are precious and dependable just like well trained soldiers. God wants all of us to be such well-trained soldiers for Christ, very reliable and dangerous for God’s kingdom work.

 

            Sometimes I love Kellogg’s Frost Flakes; I buy a big bag of it at Sam’s club with soy milk and bananas. I eat it one or two times, then, that’s it. But the Israel people had to eat the same meal all the time for forty years. It was a real challenge. At first, it tasted like wafers made with honey, meaning, it was tasty. But when they ate it three times a day for seven days, they were sick and tired of it. But there was no other choice; there was no Ralph’s market or Seven Eleven. They had to survive with Manna. So, what did they do? They began to develop special recipes to turn Manna into gourmet meals. Manna was raw material like flour. Numbers 11:8 reads: “The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. And it tasted like something made with olive oil.” Soon they developed many other special recipes. They made Manna burgers, manna spaghettis, manna steaks, manna soup, manna smoothies, manna energy drinks, manna granules, manna cookies, manna tofu, manna taco, etc. They did this for forty long years that in the end, all of them became experts in cooking manna. Once manna was given to any of them, about 20 minutes later, it turned out to be delicious gourmet meal, and everyone enjoyed it very much. 

 

            Forty years later, Moses explained to them the real hidden purpose of this manna training, saying, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” God wanted to teach them this truth – Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. The Israelites thought that man lived on bread alone. When they lived as slaves in Egypt, they had no hope or vision for their life; they were born as slaves, lived as slaves and died as slaves generation after generation; so their life was gloomy and depressing. But there was one thing that made them happy and excited: When they were assigned to take care of the pots of meat and enjoyed some meat, they were so happy and excited; as they were coming home, they were humming and singing, and their faces were bright; people were curious and asked them what had happened. Then, proudly, they said, “Guess what? I ate a lot of meat with garlic. Hahaha!” Such people were considered successful people. Their desire, their dream and hopes were set on eating good foods such as meats with garlic and herbs. In their eyes, life was about food. They lived for food and pursued it. They were indeed miserable slaves.

 

            Now, after bringing them out of Egypt, God wanted to teach them that human life was not about food. So, He rained down food from heaven freely. Then, since they had already food abundantly, they had no reason to pursue it any longer; and since all of them had the same food, no one needed to compete for it either. God solved their food problem. And there was no other thing to do in the desert – no entertainment, or nothing to do in the desert. The only thing they had was God’s words, God’s laws to think about. The only intriguing thing, something that required attention, concentration, and effort to understand or to apply was God’s word. So they thought about the word of God, or wrote God’s words on the ground, or even drew huge pictures of God’s words on the desert floor; they meditated on them and studied about them, and sometimes, they grasped God’s words and found God’s great vision for them, and they were amazed; sometimes, they were comforted; sometimes, they were inspired greatly by God’s words; sometimes, they were encouraged; sometimes, they found God’s love for them in God’s laws. God’s words became the source of comfort, strength, inspiration, joy, happiness and deep sense of fulfillment. Through God’s words, they were sustained and nourished. In the desert, God taught them that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord; in the desert, they learned that human life is not for food or any other thing, but for God’s words; human life is about studying and understanding God’s words, about obeying and fulfilling God’s words.

 

            All people in the world now live for the security. But human life is not about securing a comfortable life with a career; we were not born into the world to secure a happy family; instead, man lives on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord; we are here to live with the word of God. When people do not learn this, they still live for food, setting their hopes on their career dream or securing a happy family even in the church. Their worship of God remains superficial; at best, they go through the motion; outwardly, they look religious, doing Christian things, but inwardly, their souls are parched like barren land or withered branches, never finding any joy or fulfillment in God. Then, they end up trying to find happiness and fulfillment in something else, falling into Satan’s trap. Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. This is such an important matter. In order to teach this to the Israel people, God wrestled with them in the desert for forty years, giving them instructions and telling them to follow his instructions specifically, even threatening them that, if they did not, they would not have anything to eat. As God’s people, we all must learn this truth – man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. When we learn this, naturally, we wrestle with the word of God, meditating on it and trying to grasp it and digest it. Then, we become really blessed people as the Psalmist says. “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” In the year 2017, many things happened. But as we look back the year, we see that all those things have faded away. Instead, the only things that have left in us and in our life are the words of God He has given us, especially, the words of God based on Luke’s gospel; God has opened our eyes to see the truth of how things would go as the end time approaches, how things would go when Jesus comes again, and in view of his coming, how we must live our lives; through his words on Luke’s gospel, God comforted and strengthened us to stand firm on his side and do the work of evangelists; He has given us hope and vision for our life in Jesus Christ. With the word of God, we have become strong and very courageous to do God’s work on our campuses. Indeed, we can say, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” 

 

            Simply, the word of God is food for our spirit, containing all necessary nutrients. Just as the Israel people had no other choice but manna in the desert, there is no other food for our spirit in this barren world except the word of God. At first, when people are born again, the word of God is so sweet, like wafers made with honey, or cakes made with olive oil. When they read the Bible, they are so overjoyed and amazed that they even pant. But as time passes by, such joy disappears and they feel num to the word of God. Now even if they read the Bible, it is not the same any longer. So, many Christians wander, without knowing what to do and what’s wrong with them. It is because they have not learned to eat the word of God. Just as manna was raw material, so is the word of God. The word of God is so plain. Now they have to learn how to cook Manna and change it into delicious gourmet meal. When they are told to write testimonies, they have a hard time, because simply they don’t know how to turn the word of God into delicious gourmet dish; they struggle hard, and they feel like squeezing their brain to make sentences. They fail many times. But as they struggle continually with testimony writing by doing what they are asked to do specifically, they develop the capability of eating the word of God; they come to learn how to cook manna; they come to have many special recipes that as this training of eating the word of God goes on, they become experts in turning the raw material of the word of God into powerful, inspirational gourmet dish for their own spirit and for many others’ also. When they share their testimonies, all those who hear them are so inspired and blessed, just like eating gourmet meal. When they teach the word of God to students, their students are shocked and amazed at the depth of the word of God; they feel like eating really gourmet spiritual dish. They are overjoyed and happy and say, “Can we study twice a week?” For example, Genesis is just plain words of God; people read it, but they catch nothing. But now we have developed a special recipe to turn it into gourmet dish that when we teach Genesis, our students are shocked and amazed – their face lit with the grace of God and their spirit is revived. We turned John 1:1-5 into gourmet dish, and it is now super powerful. God’s plan for Israel people was not that only Moses would be powerful and excellent in cooking Manna, but all of them, so that the whole nation would be a kingdom of priests, in which all people were priests; each person in Israel was to be an excellent Bible teacher and powerful messenger of God’s word. How would this vision of God come true? Through manna training. God’s vision for our church is not that one or a few leaders become powerful and excellent in the word of God, but each one of us, all of us become experts in the Bible. Then, we are a kingdom of priests for the whole world, and wherever we go, God can use us freely and do mighty works of salvation for many people worldwide. How, then, can this vision of God come true? Through manna training – the training of eating the word of God daily. By dedicating ourselves to eating the word of God daily even arranging all our schedules around it. We encourage everyone to write deep and sincere testimony once a week – it requires our daily struggle of eating the word of God; if it is not enough, and if you want to wrestle with the word of God more, then, there are daily bread booklets available, and when you struggle with daily bread booklets, in four years, you will cover the entire Bible. I pray that God’s plan for each one of us, God’s plan for our church, may be fulfilled so that we all may grow up as excellent Bible teachers and our church may be a kingdom of priests for the whole world.

 

          Second, “Sabbath Training” (16:5; 22-36). Look at verse 5. God said to them, “On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much, and on the Sabbath, Manna did not stink or get maggots in it. In other days, if they saved some for the next day, it smelled bad and was full of maggots. But on the Sabbath, it was still fresh, and didn’t get any maggot. Moses said to them, “Eat it today, because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” The reason God did not give them manna on the Sabbath was so that they might not be bothered by the activity of gathering it; he even didn’t want them to do such a small work on the Sabbath so that they would focus on coming to Him, worshiping Him and having fellowship with Him. That much was the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy; let it not even be bothered by a food matter.

 

            There are two sets of the Ten Commandments in the Bible. One is Exodus 20, and the other is Deuteronomy 5. These two sets of the Ten Commandments are identical word by word, except the fourth commandment, the commandment about the Sabbath. In these two places, God explains the purpose of the Sabbath law. Exodus 20:11 reads: “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The first purpose of the Sabbath law is to commemorate God’s six days’ creation. Remembering God as our Creator is the most fundamental thing we must do; when we do that, we know who He is and who we are – his creatures – and we know what we must do and how we must live our life – we must appreciate his creation of us, because He is the Cause of our existence; and as his creatures, we must love Him, serve Him and worship Him. Remembering God’s six days’ creation and appreciating it is so important that God commands us to commemorate it once every 7 days by setting apart the seventh day, and coming to Him and worshiping Him. This is so important that God does not want us to be bothered by any human activity in the world. When we keep the Sabbath absolutely, we live as his creatures, obeying his command; thus, our relationship with God is sustained, and we live as God’s people. Indeed, keeping the Sabbath absolutely by remembering His six days’ creation and appreciating it is the lifeline for all God-believing people.

 

            Deuteronomy 5:15 reads: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” The other purpose of the Sabbath law is for us to remember God’s salvation grace. When you remember God’s salvation grace, when you remember how he showed you his grace while you were in misery and pains, you are so happy and thankful to Him that, out of thanks and willingness, you do whatever He wants you to do. Thus, when you remember it, you come to have the right relationship with Him. This is the foundation of our Christian life. This is so important that God commands us to commemorate it once every 7 days absolutely. These two (remembering and thanking God’s six days’ creation and his salvation) are the foundation of our relationship with God – the most important things. For these purposes, we are to make serious and wholehearted struggles to keep the Sabbath absolutely.

 

            How did the Israelites respond to this Sabbath rule? Moses told them that there would not be any manna on the Sabbath; yet, still, they did not take it seriously; they went out to gather manna, but found none. At this, God was upset with them and showed them how they must keep the Sabbath holy. Look at verses 28 and 29. Let’s read these verses together:

 

28Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? 29Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.”  

 

            God commanded them not to go out on the Sabbath; everyone was to stay where he was. God forbid the Israelites from even gathering food on the Sabbath day; He did not let them do any work, or even walk more than one mile – forget about having a family trip or having a wedding ceremony on the Sabbath, or even a family gathering. The Sabbath day was not usable for them for any purpose. Simply, the Sabbath day was untouchable, fully offered to God – it was holy. So, when they planned their weekly schedule, the Sabbath was already offered to God, and thereby, they arranged all their schedules around the Sabbath day – birthday party, wedding, family gathering, baby shower, business trip... So, in planning, God’s schedule came first (the Sabbath day), and then, their own schedule. Through this, they learned to live a God-first and God-centered life.

 

         The Sabbath principle is applied to the Sunday worship service for the New Testament believers. People make their vacation plan from Friday to Sunday and say, “We keep worship service there.” Not good at all! The Lord’s day should not be a part of our plan. Instead, we must start our vacation from Monday and come back home by Saturday. Even though we have to sacrifice few days of our vacation period, we must do it to keep the Lord’s day holy; the Sabbath is holy, and our God is worth it. We must adjust our schedule and plan around God’s schedule.

 

            God commanded them to keep an omer of manna in a jar for the generations to come, so that they could see the bread God gave the Israelites to eat in the desert. When later generations saw manna in the jar, they would learn God’s provision, and they would put their trust in God especially in the matter of food. God would rain down jobs for them, even in the desert-like environment. Also, they would learn the lesson of manna training.

 

           When God brought them out of Egypt, they were still nothing but slaves – they were born as slaves, and lived as slaves. Their way of thinking, their value system, their lifestyle were all according to their slave mentality. They were miserable, shallow and useless. But God had a great hope and vision for them; so He did not leave them alone in misery; instead, He wrestled with them through manna training and Sabbath training to remove their slave mentality, slave attitude and slave lifestyle, and to transform them into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, so noble, effective and glorious. He wrestled with them in the desert with these two training topics for 40 years. Indeed, only thanks to God’s zeal for them, could they grow up as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

 

        Some people ask me, “Missionary John, please train me.” They want to be great servants of God. I accept their daring ambition, and say, “Okay. Write a sincere testimony once a week and keep the Sunday worship service absolutely.” Through writing a deep testimony once a week, we learn to wrestle with the word of God putting our own fleshly desires under our control – no longer flesh oriented people, but people who wrestle with God’s word. Through wrestling with the word of God in testimony writing, we derive all we need for our spiritual life from the word of God – vision and hope, inspiration and encouragement, comfort and strength; by eating the word of God daily, our spiritual life is sustained, and we grow up as God’s people who live by God’s word. Through keeping the Sunday worship service absolutely, we live as God’s people, remembering and appreciating his creation of us, putting our trust in Him who is the Almighty, loving and worshiping Him; and we come to live a God-first, and God-centered life. These two are the most basic duties of all God-believing people. Those who receive these two basic trainings faithfully before God grow up as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, a source of blessing for many.

 

        The Israel people ate manna until they entered the promised land and ate the fruit there; when they ate the fruit there, the next day, there was no more manna. We eat the word of God everyday, all the days of our life, until we reach the heavenly kingdom, the promised land.

 

One Word:       This Is The Bread That The LORD Has Given You To Eat

 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

posted Dec 24, 2017, 7:35 PM by Site Administrator

2

 

WHERE IS THE ONE WHO HAS BEEN BORN KING OF THE JEWS?

 

Matthew 2:1-12

Key Verse: 2:2

 

Merry Christmas! I thank God for blessing us to worship him today. I also thank God for allowing me to be a Christmas messenger. But you also can be messengers as well. Look to your neighbor on your right and your left and say, "Jesus came into the world for you!" Now you are all Christmas messengers. Amen. 

 

...and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

First, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" (1-2). Look at verse 1. "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem...." Magi, traditionally called "Wise Men," supposedly lived in ancient Persia or Babylon. They were great intellectuals, occupying high government positionsIn the ancient times, Astrology was one of very popular subjects among the intellectuals. The Magi said in verse 2, "We saw his star in the east...." They saw "his star." As they were studying stars at night, they found one exceptionally bright star. It was an extraordinary star which captured their eyes. They were convinced that it was "his star," which symbolized the King of the Jews – the Promised Messiah. Modern day, peopleboth believers and unbelievers, have heard about Jesus’ second coming; in the same way, people heard and knew about the Messiah’s first coming in those days. 

 

When the Magi found the star of the King of the Jews, they were excited. A new discovery is always a big thing for the scientists. But they were not just content with finding that the prophecy of the king of the Jews was fulfilled. Instead, they wanted to see him face to face and to worship Him. So, they asked for a long vacation from their boss, set aside all other schedules such as their duties or family gatherings, and started their journey. They came from a faraway country in the east, following the two great rivers – the Tigris and the Euphrates, tracing the area known as "the fertile Crescent"from one end in the Persian Gulf area to the other end in Judea. By airplane today, it may take about a few hours, but in those days, it must have taken about one month or two months, one way through the wilderness. It was not an easy journey. They had to overcome the terrible weather in the Middle East; probably, they climbed up and down the mountains, crossed the rivers, and the deserts. They even changed their sleep schedule. They could not follow the star during the day, because stars appear in the dark; So they slept during the day and walked during the night. People probably thought that they were vampires. Not only that, traveling at night was hard for them. There were no street lights or flashlights. No 7-11 to get hot] chocolate or coffeeActually, they were holy pilgrims. Then, finally, despite a long and dangerous journey they arrived at Jerusalem, and went to Herod’s palace. They shouted, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

 

Here, they described the baby Jesus as "the king of the Jews." This is Jesus' official title. He was proclaimed as the king of the Jews at his birth by these Magi, and he was also proclaimed as the king of the Jews at his death on the cross. He was born as our King, and died as our King. We must treat him as king, showing our absolute loyalty to him and holding onto his laws and decrees, his will and his commands. No relativistic or democratic attitude toward him, but absolute obedience to him, by remaining loyal and faithful to him even to the point of death.

 

What kind of king is the king of the Jews? In 1Samuel, when the Israel people asked God to assign a king over them, they talked about what kind of king they wanted -- a king to lead them and to go out before them and fight their battles. The king they wanted to have was very idealistic. If any king is like the king they wanted - going out before his people and fighting their battles, then, all his people would be really happy and blessed. But sadly, there is no king like that; all kings are selfish, self-indulgent and cruel. These kings would stand behind their civilians and tell them to fight for himunder the rule of these selfish kings, people suffer a lot. But God granted Israel’s people wish, and God established David as an ideal king. David ruled his people as their shepherd, being concerned about their well-being; most of all, he was a righteous king who loved God and was willing to do anything for God's purpose. He ruled his people with justice and righteousness; as a result, under his rule, his people enjoyed peace and rest; no one was left out. Even though he was not the perfect king, he showed a hint of what the perfect king would be like. Then, God promised that in the line of David, He would establish a king who would reign over his people for ever and ever - God promised that He would establish an eternal kingdom through him. This promised king in the line of David was the king of the Jews whom people really wanted to have, the king who would go out before them and fight their battles, who would do everything for their well being. 

 

Jesus was born as the king of the Jews and lived as the king of the Jews and died as the king of the Jews. Our enemy sin has defeated us and beaten us; we were weak and powerless to fight against our sins. We fell into drugs. Some of us harmed people physically, emotionally and mentally. We could not stop ourselves, because sin forced us to do terrible things. We could not fight back. But while we were weak, our King Jesus fought our battles against sin by taking up his cross and filled his body with pain and sufferings. He sacrificed himself and rose from the dead for our victory over sin. He fought for us so that we would be forgiven of our sins and defeat sin in our lives. He did this so that we can be strong children of God who are not control by sin and defeated by sin any longer. Jesus is our King. 

 

Who would fight your sin? Only Jesus. Who would rescue you from your past mistake? Only Jesus your king. He is the ultimate Hero that we have longed for. Jesus is your King. If anyone rejects even this kind of perfect king then, it is obvious that that person is fundamentally rebellious, rejecting any authority over him or her. Such a person has no place in the kingdom of God. Believing in him, or accepting Him literally means to acknowledge his kingship over us, willing to abide by his laws and regulations, willing to live according to his commands. Jesus is the king of the Jews. Now today, do you accept him as your king? Will you live as his loyal people? Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of our king. 

 

Second, "Herod was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him" (3-8). These Magi brought good news of joy to the Jews, God’s chosen peopleThe King of the Jews has finally come! At this, the people of Jerusalem should have rejoiced, and make a huge parade to go visit him. Yet, how did therespond? Look at verse 3. Let’s read this verse together:

 

When king Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

 

What in the world?!!! They were disturbed at the news of the Messiah’s coming! Some people get excited about a new super hero movie. They go to comic-con and watch previewfor 5 minutesSometimes they camp out at the theatres to see the premiere. But when the real Hero, Jesus came to the world, Herod and all Jerusalem were disturbed. This means that they said to each other, "Aww man! Why is he here right now?" The Jews should have been excited because they talked about the coming Messiah for decades. They heard about his coming in Sabbath worship services for years. Now when the Messiah came they disliked his coming to the world. To them, the Messiah was an unexpected or even unwelcomed guest.Why? They were not truly ready for his first coming. If a pastor knocked on the door of a deacon’s house to give him a present, while the deacon played 50 Cents song "In Da club"loudlythat deacon would be embarrassed. He would say, "Huh! Hi Pastor. I didn’t know you were coming by. Can you come back tomorrow?"  The Jews felt like this, guilty and uncomfortable at Jesus’ first comingNo one pointed out their problems, but they themselves knew that they were not qualified to meet their Messiah, because the very life they had lived thus far testified against them. 

 

This is really a scary idea even to think about. There are so many people who go to church every Sunday and talk about Jesus' second coming. Once, a student asked me, "Do you believe in the pre-trib or post-trib rapture?" Having that knowledge does not mean anything. Jesus does not give you brownie points if you either believe in a pre-trib or post-trib rapture. What matters is that each person lives their lives in the manner worthy of his coming. Any person who lives this way will rejoice, sing and dance at his second coming--just like the first and second servants in the parable of the mina. But anyone who has not lived their life in a manner worthy of his coming will be scared and disturbed when Jesus comes. About how we must prepare ourselves for his second coming, Jesus gives us a clear instruction, saying, "Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man." (Luk 21:36) We are waiting for Jesus' second coming; thus, we must be ready for his coming by doing what he asks us to do every single day. 

 

What was the religious leaders’ response? Herod summoned all the chief priests and teachers of the law to ask them where the Christ was to be born (4). They answered without skipping a beat, saying, "In Bethlehem in Judea, for this is what the prophet has written: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd for my people Israel." Their quotation was from Micah 5:2. Their Bible knowledge was really excellent. Even without looking at the Scriptures, they recited this prophecy in one breath. So, did they say to Herod, "Please, excuse us," andran to Bethlehem to see the Messiah? No! After this, they went home, took a hot shower, and slept very well, as if nothing unusual had happened. Their Bible knowledge was great, very specific, correct and impressive, yet they had no enthusiasm about the Messiah’s first coming. They did not even smile at the good news. They had no concern about the fulfillment of God's prophecy; maybe they felt too good to see the Messiah. Maybe, they were just interested in the benefits of being religious such as occupying high positions, receiving honor and respect; contrary to the Magi who had made a long journey to see and worship the new born king of the Jews, they did not make any effort to see him. They were not willing to sacrifice one night’s sweet sleep to see the Messiah. 

King Herod’s response was even worse. He felt that the birth of Jesus was a threat to his kingdom. Immediately he planned to kill the baby Jesus, assuming that the baby Jesus would become a threat to his throne. Later, Herod learned that he was outwitted by the Magi. He even ordered his soldiers to kill all the boys in Bethlehem who were two years old or under, to ensure baby Jesus would be killedIn this way, when Herod tried to save his throne, he became an enemy of God. When people love anything in the world, there is no love of God in their hearts; often times, they become enemies of God. Don't love anything in the world, but love God alone.

 

Third, "They were overjoyed" (9-12). The Magi's long pilgrimage finally ended when the star stopped over the place where the child was (9). Verse 10 says, "When they saw the star, they were overjoyed." The word, "overjoyed" means"extremely joyful" or "full of joy." You know usually, old people do not express their joy that well, but just some laughter like Santa Clause, "HoHoHo. Merry Christmas! Hohoho..." But think about these Magi, old kingly people in kingly costumes being overjoyed, being extremely joyful, shouting, "Hurray" and dancing! They look cute. What is thesecret of this great delight? The secret was that they had been seeking the king of the Jews, the true object of their worship, with all their hearts and strength, and had finally found him. This is the joy only those who seek the true worthy object of their worship wholeheartedly come to enjoyWhen you seek him truly, you laugh loudly. Some people might say, "Man, you laugh like a hyena." You don’t care because you have joy in Jesus Christ. Jesus is your joy and heart’s delight. 

 

Christmas is the time we must rejoice because of Jesus. Tell your neighbor on your left, "Christmas is the time to rejoice" Tell it to your neighbor on your right. Those who have been seeking God can rejoice. But nowadays, people have made Christmas a commercialize holiday, as a result, it is one of the most burdensome time of the year; sadly, people suffer from headaches and depression, instead of rejoicing greatly. Today, let’s rejoice because of Jesus. Amen. Then you will not need any Motrin. 

 

Look at verse 11. Let’s read this verse together: 

 

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

 

They saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Wow! This is really an amazing scene. Mary wore peasant clothes. She did not have an aura round her head. Then, what about the baby? He was just an infant new born baby. But these aged kingly people recognized him as the King of the Jews, the Savior of the world. Even though the baby did not perform any miracles yet, they recognized him as their King, as their God and as their Savior; even though the baby did not speak a word yet, let alone deliver a powerful and heart-moving message, they recognized him as their God, bowed down and worshiped him. They were really humble people who could accept the new born baby as their King. Some people boldly say, "Only if God appears to me and shows me what to do, I will obey him." Christmas is the time when we must humble ourselves so that, like the Magi, we too can accept the new born baby Jesus as our King, even though he does not perform miracles for us yet.

 

Then they presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Their worship was very plain - they saw the baby, bowed down, worshiped him and presented their gifts to him - so their actual worship time probably took about 5 or 10 minutes. For this, they traveled such a long distance, pouring out their time and money and energy; they sacrificed so much just to see him, bowed down to him and worshipedhim. Then, what did the baby Jesus do for them? Nothing! He did not deliver a message to them; he didn't give them his divine counseling service; he did not perform great miracles for them; instead, he just looked at them; maybe, he smiled at them. The Magi considered seeing him and worshiping him a great privilege that they wanted to secure it by any means,because Jesus is their King. Simply, the baby Jesus was worthy of all their time, money, and all their sacrifices. They were true worshipers of Jesus Christ. 

 

Modern day, people do not consider Jesus worthy of their time and money; so they do not attend worship service, saying, "I am busy," or "I go to church if I feel like it" or "I have to work". Even if they come to church on Sunday, their true purpose is not to worship Jesus, but to have some benefits in him such as a free ticket to heaven; they feel like the whole world revolves around them. They keep checking out the time, and wonder when church service will end. Or they think about the next Korean drama episode on Netflix. They are rich toward themselves that they pour out their time, energy and money for themselves freely, but for Jesus, they are so stingy, and rude towards him. Jesus is our Savior; he is our King; he is our God. So, he is worthy of our life's true devotion; even if we have to travel a lot to attend worship service, even if it is costly to come to worship service, Jesus is worthy of all our endeavors. Even if we sacrifice our entire life to serve him, Jesus is worthy. 

 

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, the Magi returned to their country by another route. 

 

When I looked at how my peers were becoming financially stable and saw how they were making a lot more money than I was, I was dismayed at the reality of how I was struggling to make ends meet for me and my family. Some of my peers bought houses. Some bought new cars. What about me? I was wrestling with college students and facing rejections while my peers were more financially stable than I was. I felt like I have been struggling for years with very littleincome to survive every month to pay off student loans and daycare. The word "budget" came up a lot in my household.The desire to make more money was appealing. Because of this desire, I complained a lot about the things that I had to do. 

Our worship service on Luke 17:11-19 about the ten lepers receiving their sight from Jesus began to speak to me; particularly, the Samaritan’s man praising God in a loud voice resonated with me. While I was at the conference, I was moved by the Insanity of God -- specifically Demetri’s struggle to praise God for 17 years in one of Russia’s prison. I was brought to tears by his daily commitment to praising God.I complained a lot about my own Christian life about the losses and struggles yet even though Demetri was beaten day after day and locked up, he praised God every morning. After the conference, as I was sharing this story with one of my relatives, I decided that I should spend 1 hour a day to praising God. In that conversation with my relative I reasoned that there are always matters to complain about. But there are far more reasons to praise God. 

As a result of praising God for one hour each day, I came to have a new vantage point of seeing how blessed my life in Jesus is. I get to worship God in my generation which brings a great impact in my generation. Unlike some of my peers who own a house and party a lot, I am brining goodness to this generation by living my life as a shepherd for college students. My whole life is aligning to what the Bible says, and people can see either through my life or by what I say what the Bible actually says. God is making me a living testimony of what the Bible says. Who could imagine that my life is about sharing about who Jesus is and what Jesus has done? I am living my life that shows how great he is. Some of my peers are living their lives to show how great money is or how great their careers are or how great their houses are and even how great their dogs are. Yet I am showing the world that Jesus is far greater than what people pursue in this life. Not every church going person can testify that their life is a living example of how great Jesus is, yet my life is testifying to his greatness. I am living a wonderful life! I am not rich. I don’t own a house. I am still in financial debt, however, yet I am rich at worshipping Jesus. I am rich to serve him and live for him. I am rich in giving my life to him and rich to be in the fellowship with him. I am rich to work with him. I am even an instrument that supports college students to grow up, and live for Jesus. 

For the recent conference, my wife and I even put our daughter in the hands of relatives that live for far away from us just so that my wife and I can be God’s expression of love to students at the conference. We were not bothered; in fact, my wife and I are even rich with gratitude to do such a thing, and we have delighted at witnessing students repent and love God, right before our very eyes. We’ve had the blessed opportunity at witnessing God’s amazing love change lives right before our eyes. Not everyone in the world is blessed to see what we see. I realized that my sacrifices and hardships are my opportunities to worship him, and not the reasons to complain. 

Today, God has blessed me to be a Christmas messengerI am like a star directing others to worship Jesus. I thank God for his blessing on my life. I also get to share in the joy the Magi had in worshipping Baby Jesus. Now I will continue to worship Jesus with joy, and will continue testify to the world about how great he is even to the end of my life. 

 

One Word: We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. 

 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

posted Dec 17, 2017, 10:13 PM by Site Administrator

GLORY TO GOD, PEACE TO MEN

 

Luke 2:1-20

Key Verse 2:14

 

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

 

First, “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger” (1-7). Look at verse 1. The Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. The purpose of this census was to collect taxes from its colonies more effectively. Because of this census, everyone had to go to his own town to register. So Joseph together with his fully pregnant wife, Mary, also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn.

 

       “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger…” The Creator God, when he came into the world in the form of a human, was rejected and pushed all the way that he was born in a stable and laid in a manger. Who can believe this? When God was coming to the world to save his people from their sins, the world offered him a stable where cows and horses were staying as his birth place, and he was laid in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. Who can imagine this? God says in Isaiah 1:3, “The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” This is how we, mankind, have treated God from the beginning until now. Adam, the first man did not honor God, but disobeyed him even though God was so good to him. Israel people refused to welcome their God. John 1:10 and 11 testifies this, saying, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

 

       Why was Jesus born in a stable and laid in a manger? Verse 7 says, “because there was no room in the inn.” It seemed that Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger because of this practical reason that there was no room in the inn. But actually, when we think about this carefully, we see that it was not because there was no room in the inn but because there was no room in the hearts of people that Jesus was placed in a manger. A woman in labor is the most urgent case. Even cruel high-jackers, violent terrorists show favor to the pregnant women. But in Bethlehem, there was no one who was willing to give up his or her one night’s comfortable sleep for the woman in labor. Maybe, life under the rule of the Roman Empire was tough; maybe, survival was the most important issue to them; maybe, they were too concerned about themselves, their own comfort and security. As a result, Mary was pushed all the way to the stable, and the baby Jesus was placed in a manger. It seems that people have the same problem. In this dog-eat-dog world, people are so harassed and so concerned about their security and career that they cannot spend even one hour for Jesus. We invite them to Bible study, but they say, “No thanks. I am busy.” They spend tons of time and money for other things, for themselves, but they are so concerned about gas money that they refuse to come to worship service on Sunday. Jesus is at the bottom of their priority list. In this way, people reject Jesus; they have no room for Jesus in their hearts. But it is not only the case of unbelieving people, but also of the believers. In Revelation 3, Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20) These believing people say, “I believe in Jesus,” “I love God.” But Jesus is not in their heart, but he stands outside and pleads with them to open the doors of their hearts so that he can come in and have fellowship with them. Even if they say that they believe in Jesus, even if they say that they love God, whenever a job matter comes, or marriage matter comes, or family matter comes, they conveniently choose such things over God. In this way, they give no priority to Jesus, and thereby, he is pushed all the way. This is how people both believers and unbelievers have treated God. We must not reject Jesus any longer; our God comes to us and wants to have personal fellowship with us. We must open our hearts and accept him giving him our first priority, making ourselves available for him all the time. The joy of Christmas is for those who have room for Jesus in their hearts, for those who welcome him and accept him as their God and King.

 

       Jesus’ birth looks so sad and fatalistic. But there is divine truth behind this. Some people may have very sorrowful life background; whenever they think about their life, they become fatalistic, and say, “Mom, why did you give birth to me?” or “Why was I born?” They compare themselves with others, and feel sorrowful, envious and angry. But when even these very fatalistic people come to Jesus and see how he was rejected even before his birth, and how he was born in a stable and laid in a manger, they are so comforted; they say, “Wow! His case is worse than mine! At least, I was born in a hospital.” And they feel better. Why did God let Jesus, his Son be born in this seemingly poor and fatalistic way? The apostle Paul says in 2Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” How was your life in the year 2017? Maybe, some of us had tough time; some of us shed a lot of tears. But whenever we remember Jesus’ manger, we find many thanks topics, and sorrows and fatalism disappear from our hearts. Jesus, the Son of God, truly made us rich by being born in a stable and laid in a manger.

 

Second, “Good news of great joy” (8-11). The birth of the Son of God was quiet. But it was a universal event that the Infinite God came into the world as a tiny baby. So his Father prepared a great birthday party for him. He sent his angels to the world and held the first Christmas worship service. How did it go? Look at verses 8 and 9. There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. They were lowly and poor people. They were not educated. But God chose them to be the audience at the first Christmas worship service. When an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, they were terrified. Then, the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

 

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” “Good news of great joy that will be for all the people!” What a great expression this is!! This was what God had pursued for the past 4,000 years since the transgression of the first man Adam. Think about God who was pursuing this, thinking about how people would be blessed and how they would rejoice and be thankful. In that long period of time while God pursued this, how many heart-breaking moments he had, how many betrayals he had experienced. But embracing all those difficulties, He pursued this good news continually, wrestling with stubborn Israel people over and over again, all because he knew how blessed and happy people would be once what he was pursuing was completed. Then, finally the time came for him to deliver this message, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” God must have been really happy and excited when He delivered this message to the world. When we think about this carefully, we can see that our God is good; we can see that He has a good intention for us. Let’s say, “Our God is good.”

 

Then, what is the content of this good news that will be for all the people? The angel says, “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” The good news God proclaims today is that the Savior who saves us from our sin was already born, and thereby, his salvation is available for us today. Why is the birth of the Savior good news for all the people including you and me? It is because all men have sinned and we all suffer from our sins; it is because this Savior saves us from our sins.

 

People think of sin as something fun and enjoyable. But sin is really not enjoyable, but it is really dreadful and cruel. People think that they will enjoy sin and forget about it pretending as if they have done nothing wrong. But sin is not free of charge; it demands its price, and the price of sin is really high. When you sin, sin will find you, and demand you its price. After committing sin of adultery, people pay the price of their sin – their families are broken, parents are ashamed, children are confused and all of them cry bitterly. But sin is not satisfied with this payment; instead, it demands more and more – people suffer from depression, insomnia, hatred, anger, frustration, sense of meaninglessness all the days of their lives. Because of sin, brilliant students who, otherwise, would have been great leaders, become street bums; because of sin, beautiful young ladies become teenage single mothers; their lives wither even before blossoming. Many students’ brains are so damaged because of drugs that they cannot live as normal citizens of the society any longer. After sinning and paying the price of their sins, many people are spiritually bankrupt that they weep on others’ shoulders saying, “I don’t know why my life is so hard.” Fundamentally, the price of sin is death. And after death, there is the second death waiting for all sinful people that they will be condemned, declared guilty, and be hurled to the fiery lake of burning sulfur where they will be tormented eternally. What a serious problem our sin is! No one can say, “I am okay,” because all men sinned.

 

For these sin-plagued people like you and me, God sent a Savior, and now God’s angel shouts, “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Wow! Once he saves us from our sins, we are no longer obligated to pay the price of our sins; we no longer live as slaves to sin. Instead, we can live a new life in him as children of God. When we are saved from our sins through this baby, our families can be kept sound and healthy; our children can grow wholesome with sound character under their parents’ love and care. When saved from their sins, young men become so powerful and passionate – they can do great things for mankind; when saved from their sins, young sisters become noble and really loving like mothers – they raise up many powerful spiritual leaders – they become mothers of many nations. When saved from our sins, we can aim to do really great things in our life. Salvation from our sins is like starting our life all over again, as if we have done nothing wrong. Isn’t it all peoples’ dream to start all over again? In Jesus, we experience this.

 

The angel shouts, “Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.” Here the word, “Christ” in Greek is the Messiah in Hebrew, which means, “the Anointed One.” This title shows God’s own selection of this person to be the Savior of the world. His coming was not something that happened out of nowhere, but it had been foretold in the Bible for several thousand years. In Genesis 3:15, God prophesied about the woman’s offspring who would destroy Satan. Then, about more than 4,000 years later, God chose his own Son to be that Person, the Savior of the world, anointed him and sent him in to the world through the virgin birth of Mary. In Israel, actually, in the whole world in those days, there was no concept about the woman’s offspring, because women were not considered at all, and there was only man’s offspring. But Jesus was born of Mary a virgin, without any man involved, and thereby, the title “the woman’s offspring” fits only for him. Bible scholars say that the Old Testament includes about 60 different prophecies, with more than 300 references, of the coming of the Messiah. Jesus was God’s anointed One who was to come and save the world from sin.

 

Also, the expression, “the Lord,” shows this baby’s true identity. The angel called the baby, “the Lord.” Then, it was obvious that he was God whom the angels had served and worshiped. He was a baby, completely fragile and dependent; he was a descendant of David, but he was more than that; his true identity was the Lord, meaning, the Owner, the Master of all mankind; he is God. If God sent us the archangel Michael to save us, we will be really thankful. But instead, God Himself came into the world as a human to save us. At this, we are stunned. Our Creator denied his glory as God and came into the world as a tiny baby and was laid in a manger for us. He did an amazing thing for us. This is the good news of great joy for all the people on earth. Christmas is the time to celebrate his birth into the world as a tiny baby; it is the time to remember his sacrifice for us; it is the time for us to remember his love for us; it is the time for us to remember how much he did for us. God became a tiny baby for you. Merry Christmas!

  

Third, “This will be a sign to you” (12-20). Look at verse 12. Let’s read this verse together:

 

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

 

       Wow! The sign for the long waited Savior of the world, the sign for the Son of God was a tiny baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. A baby is completely dependent. A manger is a feeding trough for cows or horses. We never imagine a fragile baby as God. What kind of sign do you expect to see as the sign for God? Maybe, a thunderous voice from heaven that says, “I love you”? Or, God speaking to you in your dream, “Go to the shepherds church for Christmas worship service”? Naturally, we think God’s sign should be big and glamorous. That’s what the Magi, in Matthew’s gospel who came from the east to worship the new born king of the Jews, thought. They thought that the king of the Jews must be born in the palace of Herod in Jerusalem, as a result, they got lost. When people look for the sign of God in high places such as Caesar’s palace, or fancy church buildings, small signs like a tiny baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger looks too ordinary and insignificant that they all ignore it. In order to look for a sign of God, people go up and up, and make things bigger and fancier, while God goes down and down, and lowers himself all the way down to a manger. As a result, all these high-minded people keep saying, “I don’t know what God wants me to do.” Or they say, “I cannot find God.”

 

       “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Where can we find the sign of God? We must go down and down; we must humble ourselves all the way down to a manger, willing to go to a stable to look for the Son of God, willing to bow down to a tiny baby. Christmas is the time when these humble people find the sign of God and rejoice. A baby in a manger is the sign of God. Your friend coming to you and telling you, “God loves you,” is a sign of God. Your son or daughter coming to you and say, “Immanuel – God with us!” can be a sign of God for you.

 

       Look at verses 13 and 14. Now as soon as the angel finished his message to the shepherds, suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angels, praising God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” It was the special song by the angels’ choir, celebrating the birth of the Son of God. They summed up the meaning of Jesus’ birth into the world in this short expression. Jesus’ birth means “Glory to God in the highest.” The original meaning of the word, “glory” is “to be revealed of God.” Whatever of God is revealed – his power, his character and his plan – is amazingly great, wonderful and awesome – simply, it is glorious. Through the birth of Jesus, through the baby Jesus, God’s glory was revealed and the angels saw it. The angels knew who this baby was – the Creator God whom they had seen, served and worshiped in heaven all the time. He was the unapproachable God with almighty power. But now, in order to help miserable sinners on earth, the Almighty God became a baby, completely powerless, fragile, and dependent, even without being able to speak a word yet, let alone speaking powerfully with a thunderous voice. Now the Almighty God was placed at the mercy of two feeble humans, Mary and Joseph, all for the sake of sinners. The angels were really amazed and shocked at God’s unspeakable humility and His great sacrifice for the lost sinners. They were really stunned at God’s sacrificial love for lost mankind. Who could make such great sacrifice for sinners not for the righteous? Who could humble themselves to the point of being so powerless for the sake of sinners? No angel, no human could do so. Only our God could do it – He is perfect in love for us, and he is perfect in humility. The angels saw God’s perfection in humility; they saw God’s perfection in love for mankind – God’s love and humility was indeed astounding, beautiful and wonderful. God’s beauty, God’s greatness that was revealed through this event was far beyond their imagination. The angels exclaimed loudly, saying, “Glory to God in the highest!” In plain terms, it means, “Our God is great! Our God is beautiful!” Christmas is the time when we can see the glory of God in the baby Jesus – his intense love for us, his amazing sacrifice for us, and his perfection in humility – at this Christmas, He proves Himself as God indeed through his birth into the world as a tiny baby. The meaning of Christmas is glory to God in the highest.

 

       The angels also said, “On earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Jesus’ birth into the world as a tiny baby means “Peace to men on earth.” There is no peace between God and sinful people, because God is the Judge and they are criminals. Sinful people are afraid of God and thereby, run away from Him. The first man Adam, even though he was in the Garden of Eden, when he sinned, was afraid of God; when he heard God’s voice, instead of rejoicing, he hid himself behind trees. In the same way, when people sin, they feel so burdened about God – they feel burdened to even look at the Bible; whenever they pass by a church, they are burdened; when their pastor visits them, they are so burdened. It’s all because they know that they are guilty. And now the news is that, not just the Bible or a servant of God, but God Himself has come! At this news all sinners are gripped with fear, saying, “What shall I do?” They are really afraid. But when they realize that God has come into the world as a tiny baby, they are relieved from all their fears; they can see that God is not in the business of condemning them for their sins; they can see that God’s intention in coming to the world is not to punish them, but to live with them. When sinners hear this, they are really shocked and relieved from their fears. They say, “Really? A tiny baby?” And they are even encouraged to come near him and look at him, stretching out their necks carefully. When they see the tiny baby, they are so touched, and say, “He is so cute! Oh, my... He smiles even at me!” God coming to the world as a tiny baby is like God’s gesture of extending his hand of reconciliation to all sinners. Those who accept this love of God finds great peace in the baby Jesus – God’s favor rests on them. They are the ones on whom God’s favor rests – the very recipients of this good news of great joy. Christmas means “on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Today, God is extending his hand of reconciliation to you through the baby, Jesus. Accept it by accepting the baby Jesus as your God and Savior, and you will have peace in him.

 

      After finishing this special song, the angels left. The shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. They praised God and told everything they had heard and seen, and all who heard it were amazed. Then, they were filled with thanks and praise and returned home.

 

One Word:      Glory To God In The Highest And On Earth Peace To Men

Sunday, December 10, 2017

posted Dec 10, 2017, 9:21 PM by Site Administrator

IMMANUEL! GOD WITH US!

 

Matthew 1:1-25

Key Verse 1:23

 

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” –– which means, “God with us.”

 

           First, the genealogy of Jesus Christ the Son of David (1:1-17). Look at verse 1. “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.” In the New Testament, there are two places which talk about Jesus’ genealogy – one in Luke’s gospel, and the other is this Matthew’s gospel. Luke was a Greek, and he emphasized the Universal Messiahship of Jesus. So in Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ genealogy traces back all the way to Adam, the first man. But in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus’ genealogy starts from Abraham, the father of faith, and the author Matthew suggests Abraham and David as two representatives of Jesus’ genealogy. In this way, Matthew proclaims to the Jews that Jesus is their promised Messiah, whom God had mentioned to Abraham and David. God said to Abraham, “Through your offspring, all peoples on earth will be blessed.” Jesus brings blessings of God to all peoples on earth. God also said to David, “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2Sa 7:12-13) Jesus is the king in the line of David forever.

 

            Abraham did not have an official title – he was just a patriarch. But David had a title – king. Jesus is the Son of David, so, he is King. We live in democratic society; so we are not familiar with a monarchy system, even the terms such as king and kingdom sound a little old dated. But the Bible shows that we are in the monarchy system, and Jesus is our King and we are his people. It means that we have to see everything from a totally different view – as we believe in Jesus Christ, we are in a totally different paradigm. Toward the President of the USA, we just shake hands with him, and if we don’t like his political view, we protest and even threaten him, saying that we will not vote for him any longer. But not so with the king! Once a king is king always, and especially for Jesus, because he is eternal king. We must show him absolute loyalty. When he asks us to do something, we must do it whether we like it or not; if he asks us to go to a certain place, we must go there, even if that place is very dangerous, or even if we have to sacrifice a lot. Actually, Jesus expects such undying loyalty from us, saying, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer...Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10) Many peoples’ mistake is that they forget about their new status as citizens of Jesus’ kingdom; they approach the Bible with their old way of thinking, worldly way of understanding, democratic view – they cut off any part they don’t understand, keeping such liberal attitude toward God. They do not realize that the whole paradigm has changed. They are the ones who reject Jesus’ kingship over their life completely. Jesus is our King, eternal king, and we must show our absolute loyalty to him, obeying his command, his will and purpose even to the point of death.

 

            Many people make a decision to read the Bible, so they open the New Testament, and starts from the first book, the Matthew’s gospel, expecting something amazing and divine. But they are shocked at this long genealogy. Even before finishing this genealogy, they lose their interest, and fall asleep. But this genealogy contains deep truth. In the genealogy, we find five women; usually, in the genealogy, people don’t include women; the genealogy is the genealogy of men. But Jesus’ genealogy has five women, and three of them are non-Jewish women – Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. Tamar was a Canaanite woman, the daughter-in-law of Judah, but the son she bore through Judah, her father-in-law became God’s covenant person. Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute in Jericho when the general Joshua was going to destroy the city of Jericho. By faith in the God of Israel, she stood on Israel’s side, and hid the two Israelite spies from her own people; in human eyes, she was a national traitor, but God blessed her and she became the great grandmother of king David. Ruth was a Moabite woman, the descendants of Lot through his daughter – her background was very bad. But she entrusted her life in the God of Israel and came to Israel following her-mother-in-law. God blessed her, and she became the grandmother of king David. All these three women had very suspicious background, but they had one thing in common that they sought God with all their hearts and strength. They did not deserve to be used by God because of their suspicious life background. But when they sought God wholeheartedly, God accepted them and included them into the genealogy of the Messiah, the king’s line. This is how God deals with people. We are not the Jews, not the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by blood. But God still accepts and blesses us when we seek him with all our hearts and strength. When we have faith in God, God uses us in his salvation work very preciously.

 

            In verse 6, the author mentions about Solomon and his mother Bathsheba, saying, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.” As the result of David’s adultery, Solomon was born; usually, such a son is excluded from inheritance. But God loved Solomon and chose him to succeed David as king. We may wonder, “Why?” “How come?” Yet, that’s what God did, out of his immeasurable grace.  In genealogy, people record only splendid things to show off their family legacy and skip this kind of scandalous story. But the author Matthew intentionally talks about this, and other Gentile women’s cases to show that the history of Israel is also the history of God’s grace. When we think about this carefully, we too see God’s amazing grace upon us. There were many others who were smarter than us, who were more sincere than us, who were more qualified than us. Yet, God chose us as his servants and does his work through us. We have nothing to brag about, but the grace of God upon our life.

 

            In verse 17, the author divides the whole genealogy into three sections – fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to the exile, and fourteen generations from the exile to the Christ. The first fourteen generations from Abraham to David shows God’s great vision for Israel people and their rejection. God called Abraham and told him that He would make him into a great nation and that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him. In this vision, God wrestled with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and trained them. After taking the Israelites from Egypt, God told them what great vision he had for them, saying that they would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for the whole world. A kingdom of priests is a nation all whose people are priests. God’s plan was to establish Israel as a kingdom of priests so that they would minister all nations on earth; God indeed had a great plan. But, the Israel people didn’t like this idea; instead, asked God to assign a human king so that they would be just like other countries around them. So, God established David as a king. The period of the second fourteen generations covers the whole monarchy of Judah (from David to the exile); this period of time can be described as the period of the prophets when God worked hard to warn Israel people and help them repent and accept His will through the prophets; but they rejected God’s will and became more and more worthless. God could not work with them any longer, so he destroyed them and sent them to the exile; despite God’s great vision and efforts for them, they failed completely. The third period of fourteen generations covers the time between the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, and the first book of the New Testament, Matthew – this time of period is called, “inter-testimonial period.” During this time, God did not send his prophets to them; God remained silent. Since they were not available to work with Him, since they were not willing to accept His will for them, He worked all by himself behind the scene, proceeded the redemption history and completed it by sending Jesus to the world as the Christ. When we check out these three sections of the genealogy, we can see that the redemption work is the task planned, proceeded and completed by God. When humans were available, God included them to work with Him, but when no one was available, God worked continually all by himself and completed it. Today, it is still the same. God is looking for people who are willing to accept his will; when he finds them, he shows his vision for them and trains them, establishing them as a source of blessing for the world; God works and fulfills his will through them; but when people reject his will upon their life, God still proceeds his work behind the scene and fulfills it. Indeed, our God has been at his work to this very day, sometimes, working together with people when they are available and willing to work with him, and sometimes, all by himself. Indeed, zeal of the Lord will fulfill the task. Let’s pray that we may respond to God’s calling, accepting God’s will upon our life, working together with him for Gods’ world salvation plan.

 

           Second, “You are to give him the name Jesus” (1:18-21). Look at verse 18. “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” Luke’s gospel focuses on Mary, but Matthew’s gospel on Joseph. They were pledged to marry. According to the Jewish marriage custom, they were legally husband and wife, but for one year after this pledge, they stayed at their parents’ house instead of living together. Now their hearts were dedicated to each other, earnestly waiting for their wedding day. How happy Joseph was as he was thinking about his beautiful bride Mary! As a carpenter, maybe, he was preparing some wedding furniture; maybe, he was making some cute wooden mascot as a symbol of their complete dedication to each other; maybe he was planning for their honeymoon. Even though he was working overtime, he was not tired at all at the thought of seeing the smiling face of Mary. Joyful humming came out of his mouth very naturally. He would sing of Mary, “Ave Maria. Ave Maria. Maria, Maria, you make me laugh. Hahaha!” Indeed, he was the happiest person in the world.

 

            Then, one day, he heard what he could not believe – Mary was pregnant! “Oh, no!” It was unbelievable. He was betrayed. Actually, she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, but how could he even imagine such a thing? Even if she tried to explain what had happened, who could believe that? A pregnant teenage girl says that she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit!? No way! Joseph felt like the heaven collapsed right on him, and the earth melted right under him. He was really crushed. People do so many crazy things when such things happen to them – some people, in anger, pull out their guns, and others curse their betrayers. But how did Joseph deal with this problem? Look at verse 19. “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” He could have let out his anger and sense of betrayal, but if he did so, Mary would be exposed to public disgrace, or even, she would be endangered to be killed according to the law. Instead, he chose to swallow such sorrow, pain, and anger all by himself, covering her shame. Even in such a pain, he was mindful of Mary, and for the sake of her happiness, he decided to divorce her quietly. He was really a man, so noble and mature. How could he do that? Verse 19 says that he was a righteous man, meaning that he had right relationship with God. When he was in the relationship with God, he was not controlled by his ill-emotion; he was not defeated by this challenge. Instead, when he was in the right relationship with, he had strength to deal with this challenge. This is a secret of how we can become mature, cool and awesome. When brothers are in the right relationship with God, they become real men, so noble and awesome and mature – best husband candidates for all the sisters. When brothers are so noble like Joseph, many families can be preserved and many sisters can be comforted. Let’s pray that all our brothers may seek the right relationship with God by obeying God’s command and doing what God wants them to do wholeheartedly.

 

But things didn’t go as Joseph had thought. Look at verses 20 and 21. Let’s read these verses together:

 

20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in his dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

 

            This was the first Christmas message delivered by an angel of God, given to Joseph. Personally, how happy Joseph must have been when he realized that Mary was not unfaithful to him. He was relieved from such pain and sorrow. How happy he must have been to find that God was doing something great through his marriage. Moreover, the first Christmas message was really awesome. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” It was the proclamation that God’s promised Messiah was going to be born in his family. The name he would give the son Mary would deliver, was Jesus, which means, “The Lord saves,” because he would save his people from their sins. Here, the phrase, “his people” indicates that such salvation from sin in Jesus is available only for his people; that’s why people must accept him as their king. Who is Jesus? He is the one who saves us from our sins! Amen.

 

            Many people suffer from their sins. What they did, which they should not have done, taunt them with guilty conscience, sense of shame, and fear; the mistreatment, betrayal they experienced in their youth leave them deep wounds and scars that some of them are angry, some of them are fearful, and some of them are so defensive so that they would not have any more damage to their souls. Their words and actions, their life’s directions and goals, their heart’s desires are all affected by their sins; simply, their whole life is infested by sin. Who is Jesus? He is the Savior who saves his people from their sins; once they experience this salvation from their sins, their sins are not counted against them any longer, and thereby, they can start all over again as if nothing bad has happened in their life. Jesus sets them free from the power of sin. And they are overjoyed like a calf newly released from the stall. This was what happened to us! When we accepted Jesus, we were instantly set free from our past sins that had bothered us so much – our conscience was free to thank God, love God like an innocent child, and we started a new life as if nothing bad had happened in our life; we could dream big things for God, saying, “I will be a source of blessing for the world.” Jesus saved us from our sins so that we could live as innocent and beautiful children of God – no longer sin-soaked miserable people, but children of God. That was salvation from our sins. Once we experienced salvation from our sins in Jesus, we could forgive those who have crossed in our way, and we could even love them; our relationship with others was restored, and even with God that we can now sincerely love God and pursue Him. Who is Jesus? He is our Savior who saves us from our sins. Christmas is the time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus; when we truly appreciate his salvation from our sins, we have a reason to rejoice and be thankful in this Christmas season.

             

           Third, “Immanuel” “God with us” (1:22-25). Look at verses 22 and 23. Let’s read these verses together:

 

22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” –– which means, “God with us.”

 

            This is the comment of the author Matthew about the coming of the Savior Jesus. There might be several other prophecies he could have talked about in regard to Jesus’ coming, but he only mentions about this – Immanuel “God with us.” To him, God being with us, lowly human beings, was the most amazing thing. A virgin, named Mary, gave birth to a child – this is a universal event, so shocking and amazing. Then, people may ask, “What’s the meaning of this miracle?” Its meaning is, “Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” This prophecy of the virgin birth, “Immanuel, God with us” is from Isaiah 7. About 700 BC, when the Southern Kingdom Judah was attacked by the joint forces of the Northern Kingdom Israel and Aram, God sent his servant Isaiah to Ahaz, the king, and told him that He would help them and protect them; God even told him, “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” (Isa 7:11) – the sign of God’s confirmation that he would really help them – any sign! God really wanted to help his people, and he really wanted them to trust in Him. But the king rejected God’s offer, because he had already decided to rely on some tangible help from the Assyrian Empire, rather than relying on God’s help. At this, the prophet Isaiah was upset and rebuked the king, saying, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” By their unbelief, by rejecting God, they really tried God’s patience – they were really bad, despicable. Yet, God’s desire to be with them was bigger than their sin. Despite their rejection, God still gave them this sign, the sign of the virgin giving birth to a son – this was God’s confirmation that He was with them – Immanuel, God with us.

 

            Matthew experienced this grace of God when Jesus visited his tax booth, and called him to follow him. Matthew was a tax collector – a public sinner, national traitor, a despicable person in the eyes of all Israel people. He pursued money wholeheartedly, but now, with a lot of money, he was miserable, because no one was with him; he was lonely, depressed and suicidal. He was like a flickering wick that would die any moment. Then, Jesus visited his tax booth, and invited him to follow him. Even if Matthew was like a flickering wick, Jesus did not snuff him out; instead, he desired to protect him, heal him, revive him and restore him by offering him friendship and life together with him. Through this grace of Jesus, Matthew was restored and became a great spiritual leader, the apostle Matthew. To Matthew, Jesus was his Immanuel God who was with him. So, with such confidence in God’s unfailing love, he could say to all peoples on earth, to all kinds of despicable sinners, “Immanuel, God with us!” Today, God is with you. God wants you to accept Him and have life together with Him, because God has a burning passion for you; He has unfailing love for you.

 

            The virgin birth of Jesus is God’s sign for all peoples on earth – This sign stands out so much in the entire human history, drawing all peoples’ attention; everyone throughout the world, generation after generation, can read this sign. Then, what is the meaning of this sign? It is “Immanuel, God with us!” This virgin birth shows God’s burning desire to be with us; He wants to be in our day to day life. It means that He wants to help us, and He wants us to accept Him and have life together with Him. His desire to be with us is so great that He carried out such a huge propaganda in the whole world; it was like God shouting to all peoples on earth, “Immanuel, God with us!” No one should say, “No one understands me,” because God cares for us. Today, let’s accept God’s burning passion to be with us – He wants us to have life together with Him. Don’t reject him any longer, but turn to Him and enjoy life together with Him.

  

            Look at verses 24 and 25. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. He realized that God was going to use his family for His special purpose – this would affect his marriage, his family and his entire life. But he willingly accepted it, offering his marriage dream, his family life and everything to God for His purpose. He was a great man. When Mary gave birth to a son, he gave him the name Jesus.

 

One Word:       Immanuel “God With Us”

Sunday, December 3, 2017

posted Dec 4, 2017, 12:18 AM by Site Administrator   [ updated Dec 4, 2017, 9:24 PM ]

4

 

LORD, I WANT TO SEE

 

Luke 18:31-42

Key Verse 18:41

 

"What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied.

 

First, "Everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled" (31-34). Look at verses 31 through 33. Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again." It was Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem. Jesus knew what was waiting for him – betrayal, suffering and death. But he was not afraid; he was not depressed, because it was not his failure, but the fulfillment of God’s words in the Scriptures. Facing the impending suffering and death, he decisively said to his disciples, "Everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled."

 

There are many things that are written about our Christian life in the Bible. What about persecution? In the parable of the sower, Jesus describes it as the sunlight for the plant, which is even essential. Jesus even says, "You will be hated by all nations." (Mt 24:9) What about suffering in serving God's kingdom work? The apostle John in Revelation describes it as ours, saying, "I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos..." (Rev 1:9) As we live as Christians serving God's work, we come to experience these things -rejections, persecutions or some financial difficulties. What about no fig tree buds, no grapes on the vines, the fields produce no food, no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls? (Habakkuk 2) Instead, you have sufferings and poverty? If that's what is written in the Scriptures, then, we say, "Everything that is written about us in the Bible will be fulfilled." Such sufferings and difficulties are not our failures, but just a normal part of our Christian life; after that comes God's comfort and provision, and we become victorious in every aspect of our Christian life. Everything that is written about us in the Bible will be fulfilled. 

 

Because that's how Jesus saw his sufferings and death - the fulfillment of the Scriptures, he was ready to die on the cross. But his disciples were not ready; they were not ready to accept his suffering and death in Jerusalem. Now, they must know the way of Jesus their Master, and the meaning of suffering and death for God’s kingdom work – it is not failure, but the fulfillment of God’s words. Jesus’ entire ministry can be divided into two semesters in accordance with the key points of his teaching for the disciples. The key point of the first semester was that they might come to know who Jesuswas. Through his teachings, miracles and life, the disciples could see that he was God’s Messiah, promised in the Scriptures. When Jesus asked, "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter shouted, "You are God’s Messiah!" So, they passed the first semester with A+. Then, the second semester started right away, and the goal of this second semester was that they might know how they must live their life as his disciples, that was, the way of the cross. Right after Simon Peter’s confession of faith, Jesus showed them how he would become the Messiah, saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." (Lk 9:22) Jesus showed them that he would walk on the way of the cross to become the Savior of the world, and he told them to follow him in the same way, saying, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." As he would become the Messiah through the cross, Jesus invited his disciples to follow him through the cross also. The way of the Messiah was the cross; the way of the disciples is the cross. Jesus said of his suffering and death, "Everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled." Through the cross, Jesus entered into his own glory as the Messiah, and as God the Creator. The cross leads us to glory. When we enter through the cross, all God’s promises will be fulfilled in our lives. 

 

When we study the gospels such as Matthew, Mark or Luke, we see that the disciples were weak, sometimes, worldly, sometimes humanistic, and even sometimes power-hungry like politicians competing with each other. As long as they did not accept the way of the cross for their Master Jesus, they were pursuing their own dreams and desires – when they did not accept the way of the cross, they were nothing but self-seeking people in the name of following Jesus. They were immature and blind. But when we study the book of Acts or the epistles of the apostles, we can see that they were great men of God, so inspirational and powerful. Such change all happened when they accepted the way of the cross; such great change happened in their lives when they denied themselves and offered their lives to God for His mission. When Jesus called them, he promised, saying, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." He said to Simon, "You areSimon son of John. You will be called Cephas," which means, "Rock." Everything that was written about them was fulfilled when they accepted Jesus’ teaching, the way of the cross. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."This was fulfilled in their lives when they followed Jesus by walking on the way of the cross, by denying their own desires for success and power, and taking up the cross of mission wholeheartedly. Jesus said, "You are the salt of the world… you are the light of the world." Indeed, his disciples became the salt and light of the world when they followed Jesus who walked on the way of the cross. They all entered glory together with Jesus when they accepted the way of the cross.Everything that was written about them was fulfilled

 

Jesus is the Christ – this is our confession of faith. Now, we must understand how he became our Messiah, the Savior – through the cross. Jesus became the Messiah through the cross. In the same way, we can become Jesus’ disciples by following him, by living in the same way he lived, by walking on the way of the cross. The cross is the emblem of suffering and death; the cross is the place where we die, where we renounce all our own things – good or bad. But when we die on the cross, when we lose everything for God's kingdom work, there we enter God’s glory. The cross is the secret way to glory. Jesus walked on the way of the cross, and now he invites us to walk on the same path, saying, "Follow me." If we follow him in this way, surely, we all become fishers of men as Jesus promised. If we follow him in this way, surely, all of us will grow up to be powerful servants of God who can reveal God’s glory to the world as Jesus did. When we follow Jesus, God’s promises in the Bible will be fulfilled upon our life; we will never walk in darkness but have the light of life. 

 

What was the disciples’ response? Look at verse 34. Let’s read this verse together:

 

The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

 

"They did not understand any of this." "Its meaning was hidden from them." "They did not know what he was talking about." It was not because Jesus had not shown them about it, but because they were not willing to accept it. They wanted glory, success and wealth, but they did not want to suffer or die, so they rejected Jesus’ message of the way of the cross. Simply, in their eyes, Jesus must not die for the sake of their own dreams, so they did not want to hear such a message. As long as they held onto their own secret desires in following Jesus, the message of the way of the cross was hidden, and they didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about.

 

Thus, there was a wrestling match between Jesus and his disciples about the way of the cross. During the first semester in their disciples' life, Jesus' messages were always wonderful - The kingdom of heaven is near you; from now on you will catch men; you will be called Rock; God loves you; God forgives you; whatever you ask in my name will be given to you,... The disciples responded saying, "Amen!" But during the second semester, Jesus' messages were very challenging - sell everything you have, and you will have eternal life; unless you receive the kingdom of God like a little child, you will never enter it; deny yourself and take up the cross daily; lose your life for me and the gospel, and you will keep it; how hard it is for the rich to be saved; you must die to yourself,... The disciples did not like such messages. But Jesus repeated such messages every Sunday for many weeks. It was a real wrestling match between Jesus and his disciples. Why did Jesus really try to help them accept the way of the cross, even when his disciples did not like it? It was because the way of the cross was the way of life, and there was no other option. The way of the cross was the principle that was set for all people. When the Son of God came into the world, even he abode by it and then entered his glory. His disciples must accept it and walk on it so that they might have real life and enter glory with him.  

 

Modern day, it is very rare to find anyone who walks on the way of the cross, who denies his own desires and plans in order to serve God’s mission. The teaching of the way of the cross is utmost clear in the Bible – Jesus uses strong expressions such as, "Anyone" "must," but amazingly, it is hidden from modern day Christian community. Why? It is because people do not want to deny their own dreams and plans; it is because they do not want to take up the cross of mission, but want to live for their own purposes. As long as they hold onto their own dreams, the message of the way of the cross is hidden from them. All these people, instead of repenting and turning to God really, and becoming powerful men and women of God, become just religious. To them, being Christian means to become moralistic and ethical. As a result, Christians do not function as the salt and light of the world; Christians do not give very good influence to the world. When the salt loses its saltiness, what good is it for? Good for nothing, and such salt is thrown onto the ground and trampled down. The way of the cross is the way of life, the way of true success and glory. I pray that Jesus’ teaching may not be hidden from you. Let’s pray that we may open our hearts and accept God’s message of the way of the cross so that we can live a truly successful and fulfilling life in Jesus Christ. Let’s pray that God’s good promises, all of them, may be fulfilled in our lives. 

 

Second, "Lord, I want to see" (35-43). Look at verses 35 and 36. Now Jesus approached Jericho. Jericho was about 17 miles from Jerusalem. Once Jesus passed the city, they would never have a chance to see him again. There was a beggar by the roadside, and he was blind. A beggar’s life is already pitiful, but he was a blind beggar – what a pitiful person he was. Probably, he was the lowest person in the city. As he was sitting by the roadside, there was a great commotion – so many people were on the street, and it seemed that they were excited. The beggar wondered – what’s going on? When he asked what was happening, they told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." At this, the man began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" The expression, "Son of David" was a biblical idiom for the Promised Messiah. God promised David that he would establish his kingdom through his son forever. David’s Son was the one who would establish God’s kingdom here on earth, and rule over his people with justice and righteousness forever. It was really amazing that this blind beggar who had never seen Jesus, recognized him as the Promised Messiah. How? He heard about what Jesus had done – how he healed so many people, how he drove out many demons, and how he calmed down the storms, and what he had taught. With all the information he collected about him, he could see very clearly that Jesus must be the Messiah.

 

People say, "Seeing is believing." They say, "If God shows me the evidence, I will believe." Or people say, "If God appears to me, I will believe." But that’s not true. Romans 10:17 reads: "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Faith comes from hearing the message, indicating that our faith must be rooted in the word of God. This blind beggar could not see anything physically, but when he heard about what Jesus had done and what he had taught, he could see very clearly that Jesus was the Promised Messiah. Faith comes from hearing the message. We must take down deep root in the word of God so that we can be like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither; then, whatever we do prospers. We must teach our students the word of God diligently so that they may take down deep root in God’s word.

 

When he believed that Jesus was the Christ, what did he? Did he sit back and say, "I am saved"? No. Because he believed that Jesus could save him from his misery, he shouted at the top of his lung, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." When there was some obstacles - people rebuking him to stop shouting - he was not discouraged. Instead, more loudly, he shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" He was desperate and wholehearted in seeking Jesus' help and blessing. Thus, he received his blessing and was saved from his fate. Then, his life changed forever

 

The people we see in the Bible such as the leper, the paralytic, the blind, the Samaritan woman, and even the Pharisees are actually, representatives of all mankind. This blind beggar is also the representative of mankind. All fallen people are blind. They don't know who they are, what they are, where they came from, where they are going, how they must live their lives, and what they must do with their lives. That's why, when their sons or daughters ask them, "Daddy, what is life?" they cannot answer, because they themselves do not know what life is about. The only thing they know about life is that they must pay the bills, so they study hard and work hard. It is real tragedy that in their lives, the only controlling factor is that they must pay the bills. They are blind. Also, all fallen mankind are beggars, begging for understanding, sympathy, acceptance and love all the days of their life. Now we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Promised Messiah. He can save us. So what should we do? We must cry out to him desperately and wholeheartedly, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." We must seek his help and salvation with all our heart. Such people come to experience his salvation.

Look at verses 40 and 41. Let’s read these verses together:

 

40Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41"What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied.

 

Finally, his desperate cry caught Jesus’ attention. Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The man replied, "Lord, I want to see." It is really amazing that this blind beggar still had hope to see and believed that Jesus could open his eyes. The blindness was the very cause of all his misery and ill-fate. Because of this blindness, he lost all chances in his life – a chance to have proper education, a chance to get a decent career job, a chance to have sweet home, and he was forced to live as a beggar, living on others’ mercy. What a painful life it was that he had to live as a beggar. How many times he cursed his blindness; how many times he wept and cried over his terrible fate, but still, there was nothing he could do – his blindness was incurable, and probably, he had been living in this way for many years, if not lifelong. In this kind of situation, usually, most people give up, and accept it as their fate, and live in misery. But amazingly, this man still had hope to see; he didn’t give up, and he believed that Jesus would be able to open his eyes. His faith was not conceptual, or vague, but very practical and concrete. To him, Jesus was the Messiah who could save him from his ill-fate and give him a new life of hope and joy.

Jesus’ question, "What do you want me to do for you?"comes to us as a challenge. Many people think that they don’t need to tell God what they want, because God knows all. But that’s not true. God, even if he knows all, asks us, "What do you want me to do for you?" One day, I was praying to God, coming up with many prayer topics, asking him to do this and that; while I was praying for these things for about 20 minutes, suddenly God asked me, "Are these what you really want?" I was embarrassed. Then, after thinking about what I really wanted, I said to God, "No. I want to have fellowship with you. That's what I really want." Having problems and challenges in life is not a real problem. Many Christians' real problem is having no sense of problem about anything, and thereby, having no real prayer topic. They just go by the flow, doing what they are asked to do - they have no real prayer topic; they have nothing they really hope for in their Christian life. At best, they just go through the motion, while inwardly, their soul becomes like dried branches. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for,…" Here, the phrase, "What we hope for,…" shows that when we have something we really desire, we have a chance to use our faith. If we don’t know what we really want, then, we end up offering superficial prayer topics, which we don’t care whether they are answered or not, and thereby, God has no reason to pay attention to our prayers. In prayer, God wants us to be really sincere; he wants us to ask him for what we really want – what we really need. When we offer our prayers to God, when we ask God for something, we must mean it. What prayer topics do you have? God asks us, "What do you want me to do for you?"  

 

At this, the man’s answer was very clear: "Lord, I want to see." He had a clear prayer topic; he knew what he really wanted – it was to see. He did not want to remain in misery only because of his blindness. He did not want to remain in darkness any more, but wanted to see the beautiful world God created. He wanted to see the blue sky with white clouds floating in the air; he wanted to see the sun, the moon and the stars he had heard about; he wanted to see beautiful roses; he wanted to see how he looked; he wanted to see his mom's face. It was his dream. To him, there was nothing more important than seeing. "Lord, I want to see."

 

When we take this passage very carefully, we can see that this blind man’s struggle is not unrelated to the disciples’ present situation. They were blinded by the glory of this world – wealth and power, fame and recognition, so they could not see the glory that was waiting for them in heaven. Because they could not see the beauty of living for God, the beauty of walking on the way of the cross, the beauty and glory of following Jesus in his footsteps, they were endeavoring to catch what was temporary and what was worthless. How much Jesus wanted to open their eyes to see God’s glory! How much Jesus wanted to hear this prayer topic from his disciples, "Lord, I want to see."

 

"Lord, I want to see." This must be our prayer topic. "I want to see the glory of God." "I want to see the glory of having fellowship with God." When we truly know the beauty of our Lord Jesus, how beautiful he is in his person, in his manner, and how kind, gentle, and loving he is, then, we will truly love him, and follow him with all our hearts and strength. When we really know him, suddenly all things of the world lose their value in our eyes completely, and we love him alone. When we really know what’s waiting for us at the end of our life – the glory and honor God has prepared for all those who have followed him, we will not even look at the good looking things of this world, but love God alone, and pursue our heavenly reward, by denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily. We are really fascinated when we hear about many glorious things great servants of God experienced. How great it will be when we see such great things - once we see them, our life will never be the same. Lord, I want to see. Lord, please open my eyes to see your beauty. I want to see the glory of God.

 

At this, Jesus was pleased with him and said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. Actually, it was Jesus who healed him - he said to him, "Receive your sight." But Jesus gave him the full credit of this healing, saying, "Your faith has healed you." When you have real faith - not conceptual, but real faith, your faith becomes a channel through which God can launch his power and reveal his glory to the world. Have faith in Jesus. He can heal you. He can save you from your misery. 

 

When this man was healed, he was no longer a blind beggar, but a follower of Jesus Christ, praising him. He was no longer a sorrowful man, but a happy man in Jesus. At this, all people there were greatly inspired, and they too praised God. When the man lived as a blind beggar, he was a source of burden. People felt convicted when they did not give him their coins. They wanted to avoid him. But now when he was healed of his blindness by his absolute faith in Jesus and followed him praising God, he was a source of inspiration that many people praise God because of him.

 

Surely, it is not God’s will for us to remain in misery only because of our blindness. God wants to open our eyes to see the beautiful world he created so that we can truly appreciate his work and we may truly love him and honor him. But, he first asks us, "What do you want me to do for you?" God works based on our own desires. I pray that we all may have a burning heart’s desire to see the world as a whole, and to see the beauty of God and offer this prayer topic to him, "Lord, I want to see."

 

One Word:Lord, I Want To See

 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

posted Nov 29, 2017, 2:30 AM by Site Administrator   [ updated Nov 29, 2017, 2:31 AM ]

FEED MY SHEEP

 

John 21:15-25

Key Verse 21:15

 

       First, "Come and have breakfast" (1-14). Chapter 21 is the epilogue to John's Gospel. It begins saying “Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberias”, which is in Galilee. According to verse 14 of today's passage this was now the 3rd time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. The first time was the evening of his resurrection. The disciples were together behind locked doors – locked due to their fear of the Jews. Then, the Risen Jesus came, stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” However the disciple Thomas was not with them. So when he heard about this, he doubted and insisted upon seeing Jesus with his own eyes. Then one week later, Jesus appeared to them a 2nd time to encourage them, saying “Stop doubting and believe.” After already 2 appearances, what were the circumstances surrounding Jesus coming to his disciples a 3rd time? Apostle John begins saying, “It happened this way...” So let's check it out.

 

       Verse 2 reads that seven of the disciples were together. What were these seven apostles of Jesus doing together? We would think maybe they were engaged in an intense prayer battle, sweating a lot. Or maybe having a powerful group Bible study. But the passage does not mention anything like that. Simply they were together, back home in Galilee. What?! They just experienced 2 exciting events in Jerusalem: they saw Jesus after his resurrection with their own eyes and these appearances gave them proof he was alive so they could put their faith in the Risen Christ. So what were they doing back at home? As time passed, their excitement and high spirits dwindled. The harsh realities of life hit them hard. They later became anxious about their future, thinking about what should they do? Where should they go? Most importantly how would they survive? How would they secure their 3 meals a day? Now that Jesus was not with them such thoughts consumed their minds. They must have spent a lot of time in Peter's living room just staring blankly at each other, wondering what to do. Of course, none of them wanted to live their lives being overwhelmed by insecurities and fears. So after a few weeks of sitting around and making small talk, Simon Peter couldn't take it anymore. He said, “I'm going out to fish.” The 6 other disciples said, “We'll go with you.” All together, they made a decision to do something, anything, even if it meant returning to their old lives as fishermen. Did Peter and the disciples intend to rebel against Jesus? Definitely not. However when they let anxieties about their practical matters get the best of them Peter became the ringleader of the runaways and they all shamefully went back to their old way of life. Now the 3 years they had spent with Jesus were just a beautiful memory.

 

       Look at verse 3B, starting from “...so they went” How was their fishing trip? At first it was really soothing to do something familiar and get their minds off their failure. But as the night wore on things did not look good. Despite all their hard work that night, they caught nothing. At one time, these were professional fishermen, even with their own fishing businesses. But now even with 7 of them together, they had not caught a single fish after a whole night. It is like a professional NBA athlete who returns to the court at the start of the new season, but cannot make one free throw after many hours of trying. How does he feel? Like a nobody. Like a complete failure. So he walks out the gym with his head hung low, sobbing because he feels life is over for him. This was the disciples' condition. They were utterly discouraged, and their spirits were shattered. It seemed this would be the new theme of their life: things only getting worse and worse. But to the Risen Christ, things were not over.

 

       Look at verse 4. Early in the morning, he visited his disciples on the shore and called out to them “Friends, haven't you any fish?” Their hearts were too clouded with frustration sorrow and sense of failure, so they did not realize that it was Jesus. Maybe they thought he was a reporter from the local paper trying to get the early morning fishing report. So, fully embarrassed and ashamed, they answered back “No”. Then the stranger said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did so they caught such a large number of fish they were unable to haul the net in. Wow, what a way to recover from their failure! Now when John saw this great catch of fish he was reminded of the miracle Jesus performed 3 years ago on this very shore. So John knew who they were speaking to and in his excitement he said to Peter “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon heard that it was the Lord, he could not contain his joy. He wrapped his outer garment around him and cannon-balled into the water. It's strange that Peter put on his clothes to go swimming when people always do the opposite. But this shows his utmost respect for his Master. Although he wanted to get to Jesus ASAP he did not dare appear before him in his undergarments. Peters love for Jesus was impulsive but at the same time full of respect. The other disciples followed in the boat pulling the net full of fish to shore.

 

       Verse 9 says when the disciples landed they saw a fire of burning coals with fish on it, and some bread. The disciples realized that Jesus prepared a beachside breakfast with an outdoor fire pit, just for them. It meant that the Risen Christ came to the shore very early in the morning while it was still dark. While waiting for them there he was concerned that they might be cold. So he kindled a fire of burning coals especially for them. He was also concerned that they might be hungry. So he baked some bread and grilled some fish, so that they might eat and fill their empty stomachs. Although the day had just begun, with the sun barely rising on the horizon of the sea, Jesus had a tasty breakfast by a hot fire ready for his disciples to enjoy. Jesus was like a gracious mother who is so mindful of the needs of her children. As the disciples stood there amazed, Jesus said to them “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. As the others stood there shivering under their damp clothes in the chilly morning, the heat of the burning coals beckoned them closer to the fire pit. The closer they gathered the pleasant aroma of the cooked fish made their mouths water. They anticipated taking that first bite of the fish, with its crispy seasoned skin and tender meat. Also the sight of the golden brown freshly baked bread rolls was irresistible.

 

       At that time Jesus invited them saying “Come and have breakfast.” At Jesus' invitation did they respond saying “Thank you Lord!” and start digging in? No, not one of them said a word, nor did any of them even move. None of them dared ask him “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. The disciples stood before Jesus quiet and so ashamed because they did what was wrong. When the situation got tough their love for Jesus changed. But now they were speechless that Jesus showed them the same burning love he always had for them. Their love for Jesus had burnt out, but Jesus' love for them had not changed at all. Instead his love for his disciples remained as hot as the fire pit of burning coals. Even though they had failed him terribly, Jesus had no intention to mention about their failures nor to rebuke them for running away. He only said “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” and “Come and have breakfast.” His words here are so beautiful. Jesus was trying to show that he accepted them and even wanted to have eating fellowship with them. They did not deserve this, but this is what the Risen Lord wanted. So like a gracious host, Jesus served each of them breakfast one by one like his own child. He took the bread the fish and gave it to them, so generously and personally. Jesus' burning love melted their cold and broken hearts. With this they could lift up their heads and then the meal became a beautiful beachside breakfast.

 

       Here we see the Risen Christ coming to the shore of Galilee to restore his disciples’ broken spirits and rekindle his love relationship with them. Jesus confirmed his love for them through his actions, helping them to have a great catch of fish and preparing a beautiful seaside picnic. We praise Jesus for his burning love, which keeps no record of wrongs. In the same way Jesus visits us in our lowly place and invites us to have beautiful fellowship with him.

 

       When I was a year old my mom and dad broke up, so I grew up in my father's absence. This resulted in me longing to fill the place of a male figure in my life. In high school I even began developing homosexual desires for other men. I grew up going to church from a young age in a very conservative culture, so I felt this was not right. However, I was gripped by the desires of my heart. I began school at CSULB in the Fall of 2010. I was excited to not only pursue my career as a filmmaker but make new friends. Soon, I found a new group of people in the dorms to spend time with. I began to smoke marijuana with them endlessly and drink on the weekends. This was a way of life I was not familiar with as I had always been a smart church-going boy. But now I was becoming a wild party animal. This way of life at first seemed fun, but it was becoming a nightmare. My grades began to drop, my money was being wasted, and I grew into a depression. When I was high, demons tormented my mind with thoughts of meaninglessness and suicide. They said, “If your father doesn't love you, who does?” Although I put on a smile and laughed with my peers, I was dying inside, not knowing how I stand to go on this way for one more day.

 

       Then one day, God sent his servant to me. He asked if I would be interested in a Bible study and I said “Okay.” Although my answer was not so enthusiastic, to me this Bible Study invitation was the gleam of hope while I was suffering deep darkness. Each time we met I never remembered much of what we studied but I couldn't deny the deep peace I had whenever I left Bible Study. Then I was struck very personally in Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus said to the paralytic in 2:5 “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus knew that I was deep in a sinful life, with such a perverted heart. But still he accepted me as his son and was willing to forgive me. This was a deep love I had never known before, but it was exactly what I had always wanted. Jesus' love became very real and personal to me. Then I was invited to study Summer Genesis and I was thrilled that Bible Study was not just for the school semester, but I could continue to enjoy Gods word in the Summer. Through intensive Genesis Bible Study and testimony writing God was preparing me to serve him for the upcoming school semester. I was excited especially now that God offered me his covenant vision in chapter 12:1-3 to leave my old life then he would make me into a great nation.

 

       One morning of last November, I heard the news of my dad's tragic car accident. This event really shook me to my core. If there was anyone I wanted to make proud it was my dad, but I had to bury him just a few months prior to my college graduation. Furthermore, I was discouraged that I had served campus mission for some years with no fruit. I felt like I was entering the real world as a loser with nothing to show. Eventually I was overwhelmed by anxiety and entertained a fatalistic view of my future. I sunk into a deep depression, began to drink and sometimes would lay in bed all day.

      

Eventually after some online research there was an opening for a low-income apartment I could afford even with my minimum wage part time pay. The landlord said that soon I would have a roommate. He came all the way from NY. After meeting and talking with him we found out we were cousins. I couldn't believe that out of all the apartments in Los Angeles my own cousin whom I have never met came across the country and moved into this one. After explaining this to my landlord, he said “That's God's work.” Around the same time I moved into the apartment, a family friend referred me to a job at a Marriott Hotel. The interview with the GM and AGM went very well and about two weeks later, I was hired. I’m surprised at how successful I have been at this job. Despite my short amount of time working here, just about 6 months, the GM awarded me employee of the month, he promoted me to supervisor, and many guests have mentioned me for good customer service on the hotel website. I don’t think I am such a great worker but when I brought this to the attention of the AGM she said, “The only way to explain all this is that you are highly favored”. These recent events in my life in the past few months remind me of the disciples’ miraculous catch of fish in this passage. Just like Jesus did with the disciples, he intervened in my situation, my housing matter and job matter with miraculous catches of a cheap apartment, a good roommate, and a suitable job which I have prospered at. Like Apostle John the only conclusion of all these things is “It is the Lord.”

 

Still there is a burden in my heart because the focus is not the miraculous catch, but the one who did this for me very personally. Like the disciples standing on the beach cold and hungry, I am still ashamed at how I have treated him. It is shameful that I ever let my circumstance get the best of me to the point that I abandoned him. What could I possibly say to my Lord? Where do I go from here? This is when Jesus says, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught” and “Come and have breakfast.” Here I see that all along Jesus’ intention was to call me to himself. I mistreated and abandoned him. But he never forgot about me. He arranged all things, in such a divine way, so that eventually our relationship could be restored. My fear was ending up as a loser in this world and in God. But as long as I am in the passionate relationship with Jesus there is no such thing as loss, because he satisfies my deepest heart’s desire for love. Despite my weakness and unlovely character Jesus wants to spend time with me, so he prepares a hot meal and invites me to enjoy saying, “Come and have breakfast.” Here I am encouraged to not focus on my circumstances too much, whether rich or poor, fruitful or barren. I must respond to Jesus’ love for me which is unchanging. With this I rededicate my heart to Jesus and renew my NYKV Jeremiah 29:11 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Rather than seeking out another drink, another friend, or an easygoing life I must seek my Lord Jesus wholeheartedly.

 

       Second, “‘Feed my sheep’” (17). After they had all enjoyed their lake side meal on the beach, they were now in good conversation, smiling more at one another, and talking more freely. It was a beautiful scene as the sun was coming up over the horizon. At that time, Jesus turned towards Peter and asked, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more that these?” Jesus questioned if Peter loved Him “more than these.” What was He referring to in mentioning “these”? “These” could have referred to his fellow disciple friends, or relationships. “These” could also have referred to the great catch of fish they had, or security and money. Basically, anything else that occupied and attracted Peter’s heart. Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him more than these things.

 

How did Peter respond? Look at verse 15b.

 

“Yes, Lord” he said, “you know that I love you.”

 

In the past, Peter might have responded by saying “If I don’t love you, then who else Lord?” Before, in John 13:37, Peter boldly declared his love and said, “Lord, I will lay down my life for you,” and in John 18:10 Peter cut off the high priest’s servant ear to protect Jesus. His love was bold, but actually Jesus rebuked him after both of these acts of love and did not accept this confession. But, this time he had no grounds for such boldness and self-confidence. In John 18:25-27, Peter disowned Jesus verbally three times and now in John 21 he became the ring leader of leading the disciples back into their old life of fishing. Compared with what he said before, this confession of love sounded weak and not very convincing; it was dependent upon Jesus knowing that Peter loved Him. However, this is actually what Jesus accepted compared with what Peter had said in previous passages.

 

As a response, Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus showed that regardless of what had happened, this is what he should do if he loved Jesus from now on. Feeding Jesus’ lambs represented bringing the word of God to new believers and non-believers. Jesus did not just want Peter’s bold words of mouth, but instead that Peter would practically dedicate his life to Him. Through this, Jesus also shows that what he really desired from Peter was a love relationship. Not only a short term friendship or business relationship, but a BFFL (Best Friends For Life) love relationship. Jesus was not interested in Peter’s money, success, or talents, but instead Jesus wanted Peter’s heart. At the beginning of John 21, Jesus demonstrated His unconditional love for Peter and the disciple when He cooked and served them fish and bread breakfast even after they went to their old life. Peter saw that Jesus really loved him. Now Jesus showed him the way that he could love Him in return; this was by feeding Jesus lambs, or bringing the word of God to new believers and non-believers. Jesus also showed His love and value for Peter by entrusting feeding these little lambs into his hands. In Jesus’ eyes, these lambs are very precious to Him, just like diamonds. Now, in the way that Peter would take care of these lambs would be the way in which Peter could show love to Jesus. In another passage, Jesus mentions this in similar way by saying, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matt 25:40).

 

       What if Peter was not very fond of this direction and it might not be what he imagined dedicating his life too? He probably hoped to be successful in the world and enjoy a comfortable life. However, this way would lead him to a truly meaningful life. Also, by doing something he was not initially inclined to do he would prove that he only did this because of Jesus alone and thus make a true love confession. Soon, Jesus would go to heaven and Peter would not see Jesus physically anymore. But lambs were very alive and real in his practical life. Jesus was showing to Peter the way that he could show true love to Jesus was by taking care of God’s flock.

 

Look at verses 16 through 17. Let’s read these together.

 

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered “Yes, Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord you know all things you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

 

       Jesus asked this question to Peter again two more times. Finally, Jesus was asking Peter if he even loved Him at all. Peter agreed both times, relying on Jesus knowing his love for Him. As Peter heard Jesus’ questions “Do you love me?” spoken in his heart and confessed that he loved Jesus, he could not hold onto his past failures, and instead he could start to open his heart to Jesus and be freed from guilt and shame. In response Jesus mentioned about His flock again; this time he said, “Take care of my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep.” Sheep refer to growing believers, and taking care of them means being concerned about their entire wellbeing. Again, Jesus showed that the way that he could love Jesus and even must love Jesus was by caring for His flock. The third time Jesus asked this, Peter was hurt. Nowhere else in the Bible do we see Jesus pressing anyone this hard. Why was Jesus doing this? Jesus did this to give Peter a chance for him to sincerely confess his love to Him and thereby be restored from his past failures. Jesus was gracious and did not want Peter to keep counting his loses but instead to vocalize his love and focus on how to love Jesus from now on.

 

       In the same way that Jesus said this to Peter, He can say this to us. He calls us by our full name and then ask us, do you truly love me more than these, more than anything else? More than you dream for money, success, marriage, your friends, pleasures, or a comfortable life? If so, then feed my lambs. Do you truly love me? Then take care of my sheep. Do you love me? Then feed my sheep. This is how we can practically love Jesus. Many Christians wonder, “What does Jesus want me to do?” They want to love Jesus, but they don’t know how to. Jesus shows here what we should do, it is to feed and take care of his sheep and lambs.

 

Look at verses 18 through 19. Let’s read these together:

 

18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

 

Jesus now showed how Peter’s life would go and eventually end as he lived this life of loving Jesus by feeding and taking care of His sheep and lambs. Before, when he was younger, he dressed himself and went where he wanted. He lived his life in the way that he pleased, enjoying his human liberty to the full. If he wanted, he would have Jewish parties with friends every night or he would wear whatever fashionable robe he liked. However, now he would stretch out his hands and someone else would dress him and lead him where he did not want to go. He would no longer live life however he wanted, but instead Jesus’ sheep and lambs would determine his life and schedule. Sometimes he might be tired and might just want to relax at home, but still he would go to Bible Study to teach and care for Jesus’ flock because this is how he could love Jesus.

 

 

In the same way, apart from God, we had this kind of liberty and freedom for ourselves. We were the captains of our own ships. But, upon accepting Jesus’ calling, our lives become centered around His flock, instead of around ourselves. We start to live for teaching and taking care of sheep and lambs, similar to how some people live for basketball, with shirts that say “eat, sleep, ball, repeat.” This was Peter’s new life direction and eventually he would even die for this cause and glorify God through it. Tradition says that Peter was eventually crucified upside down for his faith, and hence why Jesus would have mentioned outstretched hands as in the position for crucifixion. Peter would serve God’s flock even by his death. Then Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me!”

 

       Once Jesus showed him everything, it seemed challenging and even scary to live and die for Jesus’ flock, but Peter accepted this new direction for his entire life because he loved Jesus. It was a great response. However, in verse 21, Peter demonstrated that he had one condition. It was if John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, would come along with him. As they were walking, Peter complained, “Lord, what about him?” It seems that Peter was asking Jesus, isn’t it time to deliver the same message to John? But, Jesus did not agree to this and instead challenged Peter by saying, “…what is that to you? You must follow me.” Whether John enjoyed his life or suffered a lot, if he stayed alive or if he was martyred, Peter must still live this way. After accepting Jesus’ message to live for his flock, we also may think to ourselves, “Lord, what about others?” such as other Christians who don’t struggle this way. Jesus says to us, “…what is that to you? You must follow me.” Jesus shows that no matter what others do, you must follow him and you must profess your love for him by giving your life to feeding and taking care of his sheep and lambs.

 

       I was raised up in a family with one brother, a mother, and father. I was home-schooled until 6th grade and thus, I was pretty naïve towards things of the world at first. However, upon entering private middle school I started dating and in high school I was exposed to marijuana, alcohol, cigarettes, and parties. Although I sensed that I became more social and had more friends than before, I also had many more questions and was becoming depressed and confused. During high school, I also joined a company, Vemma, through which I hoped and believed that I could become a millionaire by the end of college and change the world for the better.

 

       In 2013, I was accepted at USC and had hope for my future, but I was still empty and confused and sought the purpose of my life and what truth was. As a result, I became curious about religion. Somehow, during my senior year, I became the drummer for the high school ministry of my childhood church and I joined their senior small group. I also attended a Christian retreat where I would encounter a divine experience with God in prayer and come to realize that God was what I should pursue as the goal of my life. I sensed God reaching out to me, but a girl and success in the world distract me from positively responding and when I came to USC in fall 2013 I would continue a worldly life style of parties and drinking my first couple weeks.

 

       During my first semester at USC I sought belonging and would face a decision to join a Christian or social fraternity. Should I have chosen the social one, I saw that my worldly lifestyle would only increase. Thankfully, somehow God helped me chose the Christian one. Although I didn’t believe in God yet, in a few weeks, at a time when I was really depressed and confused about life, I realized that I could not keep pushing God away and that I needed Him in my heart and life. So, after speaking with a fraternity member, God helped me to decide that I should put my trust in Jesus to do whatever He wanted me to do. For some reason I knew that although everything and everyone failed me, God was really trustworthy and would not fail me. I remembered the Hymn titled On Christ The Solid Rock and held mainly onto the verses Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” The following days I was happy and had a kind of spiritual high, I was even encouraged by God through people’s cards and comments. Yet, I was still directionless. But God did not leave me alone. Amazingly, the night I put my trust to follow whichever guidance God gives me was October 23, 2013. One month later, November 25, 2013, I had my first Bible Study. God responded to my situation in one month to show what He wanted me to do! I also longed to find someone to imitate in my life so that I could have a truly successful, meaningful, and wonderful life. There was no one I found like this in my past life, but one night my shepherd said, “follow me,” in a car ride to my home. I was confident that God was showing me that by following my shepherd I could come to God and be successful in the true sense. Then God helped to remove elements of sin and I started giving up parties, smoking, and drinking. Miraculously, God even would help me to leave the company Vemma. Although I was very invested, God helped me to leave without much trouble and take my focus off a financial dream. God actually saved from there as I was deceived by its promises and it was eventually labeled a pyramid scheme and shut down.

 

       My shepherd and I studied Genesis intensive Bible Studies in the summer of 2014. Here God gave me my current life key verse Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God helped me to see that I was His creation and that only He could help me to live the really wonderful and fulfilling life that I hoped for. I also received the verse Mark 8:35 from one of my shepherd’s stories, "35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it." Through this, God again showed me that only He had the answer to a wonderful life and I was reassured that following His directions was the way to save my life really. After Genesis Bible studies were over, I began serving God's work in fall 2014, teaching the Bible to several students at USC.

 

At school, God convicted me to let go of my minor in cyber security around my junior year, so that I could spend more time for God's work. It was challenging because I thought that this minor would help me get a job after graduation. But I sensed that in this way, God was asking me to take my focus from my career and entrust all those matters in God’s hands. I accepted this challenge and entrusted my career matter in God's hands, and focused on serving God's work. Also, although I didn’t really like the direction, my shepherd encouraged me to continually to study hard in school. Yet, through this I sense God has helped train me to be a more diligent and disciplined worker. I have seen God’s help in my classes. In my freshman year, my GPA was not very good and I had little motivation. I was even warned by the fraternity to get my grades up. But as I served God's work, God helped my grades improve and I had a 3.7 GPA for my last senior semester in spring 2017, even if I had less time to study, due to serving God's mission. Then 3 months after graduating and 6 months of only job rejections, God blessed me to receive 4 job offers in the same week and I accepted one to work as a Junior Data Analyst. It was really God’s hand as He also blessed my roommate with the same kind of job in the same week. God also provided for me a very suitable place to stay just at the right time with a brother from church. I was continually well provided for by God. The cross that I now carry is a full-time job where I feel not very competent compared with my co-workers and endure some challenges, yet I sense God is still with me as He was before. The challenges that I face are different from before, but one things seems to continually stand out and that is to serve God’s kingdom work.

 

       This passage helps me to also see the importance of the mission, but also its focus on it being a response to Jesus’ love. As Jesus’ words “Peter, do you truly love me more than these?” was repeated through the passage and in my heart, I could not be stuck focusing on my past and being burdened about it, but instead now I could focus on making a confession of love to Jesus. Jesus shows His desire to restore me from my failures so I can continually love Him. I am also touched that what Jesus really desires is a real love relationship with me. He is not interested using me or after my money, but instead He desires my heart and my complete devotion to Him. In the beginning of my Christian life, I was primarily focused on the excitement of the mission and on having great results. But, this helps to change my view towards Jesus and that serving God’s work is actually my confession of love to Jesus. Now Jesus gives to me the direction that if I love Him more than my dream for future success or anything else, then I should give my entire life to feeding and caring for His flock. I wholeheartedly respond to this by accepting Jesus’ direction and now will struggle to live this way all my life until I see Him face to face.

 

One word: “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said. “Feed my sheep.”

 

 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

posted Nov 19, 2017, 11:03 PM by Site Administrator   [ updated Nov 19, 2017, 11:10 PM ]

SELL EVERYTHING YOU HAVE. THEN COME, FOLLOW ME

 

Luke 18:15-30

Key Verse 18:22

 

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

 

First, “Anyone who does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (15-17). Look at verse 15. While Jesus was preaching, some parents brought their babies to Jesus to have him touch them. They saw that Jesus was a great servant of God, and they wanted their babies to be blessed by him. But when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. Their idea was that Jesus’ time must be used for more worthy cause than for children. But how did Jesus respond? Look at verses 16 and 17. Let’s read these verses together:

 

16  But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

 

Jesus welcomed children and told his disciples not to hinder them from coming to him. Why? Jesus says, “for the kingdom of God belonged to such as these.” He did not mean that the kingdom of God belonged to the little children, but to those childlike people. Then, Jesus proclaimed, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” When they are told, “We will go to Disneyland tomorrow for the family trip,” children are so fascinated at it that they cannot sleep that night; they receive that news so wholeheartedly; they think about it, talk about it and dream about it. They are completely in it. Jesus says that anyone who does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. What about those who say, “I believe in Jesus,” yet, are not so fascinated at the kingdom of God? They will never enter it. What about those who have attended many worship services? Unless they receive the kingdom of God like a little child, they will never enter it. What about those who have great Bible knowledge or those who have PhDs in theology? If they do not receive the kingdom of God like a little child, they will never enter it. What about the apostles? If they do not receive it like a little child, they will never enter it. This is Jesus’ standard. Then, you can imagine what kind of people are the citizens of the kingdom of God – all those who have been completely fascinated at the kingdom of God and thereby, pursued it wholeheartedly. Some people may say differently about who enter to the kingdom of God, but Jesus confirms this, saying, “I tell you the truth,” meaning, “This is really true. Don’t be bothered by what others say, but you can trust in what I say.”

 

Here, the expression, “receiving the kingdom of God” is about how we respond to the messages or news of the kingdom of God. Simply, based on Jesus’ words here, we see that it is up to how we respond to the messages of the kingdom of God that our eternal destiny will be decided – either the kingdom of God or somewhere else. So, we must ask ourselves, “How do I receive the kingdom of God?” Do I receive the kingdom of God like a little child, completely fascinated at it and thereby, dreaming about, thinking about it, and putting hope in it? Or do I receive the kingdom of God like a well seasoned politician, trying to analyze it, or saying, “Later, I will think about it when I retire”? We must never assume that we will go there as default, because we do this or that for God. We must never take it for granted either. Instead, we must repent of all our worldly desires and pursuit that divides our hearts from the kingdom of God.

 

Second, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (18-23). Look at verse 18. A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” According to Matthew 19:22, he was a young man. In such a young age, he was a government ruler and had great wealth. He got all we dream about. When people achieve great things in their young age, usually, they lose the direction of their life, become empty and then, pleasure-seeking. But this young man was different. Even after such great success, he did not become worldly, or materialistic or pleasure-seeking. Instead, he was a faithful worship service attendant, never missing it, arranging all his schedule around the worship service time, giving it his first priority above all his business meetings and family matters. He kept all the laws and regulations wholeheartedly, bringing his one tenth offering to God and doing other requirements faithfully. He denied all his worldly and fleshly desires to keep all these laws. Moreover, he did many good things such as serving food for homeless people on special holidays or donating a lot of money for good cause. He never cheated anyone, but he was honest and faithful. What a great man he was! He was a role model for all young people in his country. Everyone praised him. What was the secret of his great life? What made him live such a good life? It was all because he was seeking eternal life; he did all these to inherit eternal life. His sincere desire for eternal life made him overcome the corruption of the world and become such a great person.

 

But the problem was that, even after all these struggles, he still had no confidence in eternal life. He was not sure if he had eternal life or not – when he honestly checked himself out, he did not have it. He had done all the requirements – he denied his own desires and fleshly passions; he took up all the required burdens by keeping the laws and doing good things. But still, he did not say that he had secured eternal life. The worst thing was that now, he didn’t know what else he should do to inherit eternal life. He was lost. This man asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” What an important question this is! What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This is the very fundamental question all people have. One lady was dying at the age of 93. But she said in her death bed, “I don’t want to die.” All people want to have eternal life. But how can we have it? Buddhist suggest that we have to sit in front of a wall for 20 years; many people followed this instruction; then, they went crazy, being possessed by demons. Where is the way? What must we do to inherit eternal life?

 

Based on the question this young man brought to Jesus, we can see his understanding of how he would have eternal life that was, by doing good things. That’s what he had pursued thus far, but all the good things he had done were not good enough for him to inherit eternal life. It seemed that he should do something really good so that he would inherit eternal life. This something good must be so big and would require him to sacrifice a lot; but he was willing to do it only if he could secure eternal life. But he did not know what that something good might be, which would give him eternal life. He considered Jesus as a great servant of God; it seemed that Jesus had eternal life; it seemed that Jesus had the confidence in eternal life. So, he brought this question to Jesus. What was Jesus’ answer?  

 

Look at verses 19 and 20. Let’s read these verses together:

 

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’ ”

 

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” Jesus first pointed out his mistake. Jesus showed him that no one is good except God indicating that the young man too could not be good enough to inherit eternal life by doing any good thing. Eternal life is not something we can earn through what we do for God. With our own efforts or good deeds, we cannot buy it. Our own righteousness is like a filthy rag compared to the value of eternal life, or compared to God’s standard of righteousness. And then, Jesus said to him, “You know the commandments.” When the man asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answer was: You know the commandments – “Why do you ask me? You already know it.” The way of inheriting eternal life is in the commandment. His point was that if he had kept the Commandments, he would have had eternal life. Then, he came up with the second half of the Ten Commandment.

 

When we think about this answer of Jesus, we can see that there is no secret or mysterious way in having eternal life – it is plain and simple that everyone who believes in God knows. Some people are so concerned about their eternal life; they have no confidence if they have eternal life or not, even in Jesus. It is not because they do not know the way to have eternal life, but because they do not do what they are supposed to do. They don’t do what they know they must do, so they have no confidence in God at all, but they are afraid and they live in suspense. Do what God commands you to do, then, you will have the confidence in God’s goodness for you and you will enjoy a beautiful life, even eternal life. This man did not have the confidence in eternal life, not because he had not done something really good, but because he had not obeyed God’s commandments.

 

But the man said, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” Was he telling a lie? No. That’s what he really meant; his conscience testified for him. What a great man he was. Yet, he missed the point. If he had kept the commandments, he should have had eternal life; yet, the fact that he still did not have eternal life showed that he had not kept the commandments. How did Jesus respond?

 

Look at verse 22. Let’s read this verse together:

 

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 

 

Fundamentally, there was a gap between his understanding of keeping the commandments and Jesus’ understanding of keeping the commandments. So, Jesus showed him how he could really keep the commandments, saying, “You still lack one thing.” Wow! The young man was almost there – just one more thing, and if he only did that one thing, he would completely keep the commandments, and thereby would have eternal life. Just one more thing – how close he was to eternal life! What was that one thing, which he lacked? Jesus said to him, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” This is how one can truly keep the commandments – completely selfless life. Keeping the commandments is more than restraining one’s action from doing bad things such as adultery or murder or theft; rather, it is to not live for oneself any longer, but for God and for others alone. Indeed, only by loving God and loving neighbors with all heart, soul and strength can we truly keep the commandments. In order to do so, we must sell everything we have and value in this life so that our heart may not go to it, but to God and to people. 

 

Jesus said to him that only when he sold everything and gave to the poor, he would have treasure in heaven. Once his treasure was in heaven, his heart would be there, thinking about it, dreaming about it and talking about it day and night; he would have real hope in heaven.  Then, what should such a person do? Jesus said to him, “Then come, follow me.” Those people who sold everything have no hope in the world at all; the world is simply not worthy of their time and energy; no meaning to spend their life for anything in the world. Such people come to Jesus and follow him as his disciples pouring out their time and energy, their talent and life for God’s kingdom work – they are the ones who live for God and God’s flock; they are the ones who love God with all their heart, soul and strength, and love their neighbors as themselves.

 

How can we inherit eternal life? Sell everything you have and give to the poor. Then come, follow Jesus. This is the way to have eternal life. This is how we can truly keep the commandments. What kind of people are these who sell everything they have in this world for the kingdom of God? They are the ones who receive the kingdom of God like a little child.

 

Based on today’s passage, you see what kind of people gather in the kingdom of God. When you go to the kingdom of God, you will see that all the citizens there have one thing in common – they have received the kingdom of God like a little child, so fascinated at it, and pursued it selling everything they had. In that sense, they are one. I pray that we all may join in them as well. How can we join in? By selling everything we have and following Jesus as his disciples.

 

Oh, when the saints go marching in,

Oh, when the saints go marching in,

Oh how I want to be in that number,

when the saints go marching in.

 

At this, how did the man respond? Verse 23 reads: “When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.” After many years’ struggle, finally, he got an answer, and he knew what to do – just one more thing, and then, eternal life. He was really close. But alas! There, right at the gate of the kingdom of God, he turned away from it and went away sad, because he didn’t want to do that one thing. He didn’t want to sacrifice what he valued – his wealth – for eternal life, because fundamentally, he valued his wealth more than eternal life. Between eternal life and his wealth, he chose his wealth. So, he failed to have eternal life. After this, he would still go to worship service. But no matter what he might do, he knew how he had rejected eternal life. What a painful and miserable life it would be.

 

Here, we learn how to keep the commandments, and how to inherit eternal life. We must sell everything we have. If we value anything in the world more than eternal life, because of that thing, we cannot keep the commandments, and we end up rejecting eternal life to secure that something we value. Jesus says that we cannot love both God and our own treasure. The Bible tells us that we must not love anything in the world; if we love anything in the world, the love of God cannot be in us. Sell everything you have; give it to the poor. Then, you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Jesus as his disciples, living to build God’s kingdom on earth.  

 

Third, “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (24-30). Look at verses 24 and 25. Let’s read these verses together:

 

24  Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25  Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

 

Many people think that entering the kingdom of God is so easy – just say magic words, “I believe in Jesus,” then you have salvation. But Jesus does not think so. In Luke 13, we see a disciple asking a very important question, saying, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” Actually, this is the question so many people have. At this, Jesus replied, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Lk 13:23,24) Now in this passage, Jesus says that it is really hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Why is it hard? It is hard because they have difficulty to give their money up; they have difficulty to sell their wealth and give to the poor to secure eternal life. The more they have, the harder it becomes for them to give it up. Even Jesus says that it is almost, or totally impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom of God – a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle.

 

At this, many people may say, “I am okay because I am not rich; I am broke.” But having no money does not mean that you are not rich. You may still have something you value highly. All young college students are rich in future – some people have promising future, while others have unpromising future; yet, all of them are rich in future and they value it. To some people, their relationship with their boyfriend or girlfriend is their treasure. They refuse to exchange it even for eternal life – they turn down God’s call, God’s offer to secure what they value. Indeed, it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

 

Look at verses 26 and 27. Let’s read these verses together:

 

26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”  27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

 

At Jesus’ teaching of how hard it was for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, the disciples were shocked; in their eyes, it seemed that there was no one who could be saved, if such a high standard was applied. If people have to sell everything they have to be saved, then, who will do that? They exclaimed, “Who then can be saved?” Even that rich man who had pursued it wholeheartedly could not accept the deal! At this, Jesus agreed that it is impossible for people to be saved on their own. With man, this is impossible.

 

Then, isn’t there any way for people to be saved? Yes, there is. Jesus says, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” With God, men’s salvation is possible. With ourselves alone, we cannot secure salvation, because we cannot sell everything on our own even for the sake of eternal life. But with God helping us, with God’s intervention, we sell everything and follow Jesus. Nicodemus knew that Jesus was a man from God; in his heart, he believed in Jesus, but he was hesitant, because, if he exposed himself as a disciple of Jesus, then, he would lose all his money, position and title in the society. But when he saw how Jesus boldly died on the cross for God’s purpose, he was deeply touched that he boldly exposed himself as Jesus’ disciple willing to lose everything in the  world for God. When God’s inspiration comes to them, young people give up their career dream and dedicate themselves to God’s work. When one word of God touched their hearts deeply, doctors give up their secured life and go to poor countries and live as Jesus’ disciples. When God’s inspiration comes to them, many people turn to God decisively cutting off their relationship with their boyfriends and girlfriends. This is what we all experienced – with ourselves, we were only agonized, knowing what we must do, but without being able to do it – we were really like this young man, knowing what to do, but not willing to do it. Then, during Bible study or while hearing the message, one word of God touched our hearts, and we were set free to turn to God and pursue Him. With God working for men and helping them, men’s salvation is possible. With God, many people sell everything and follow Jesus. God says in Isaiah 49:8, “In the day of salvation I will help you.”

 

When we think about this, we can see that we are the products of God’s work; we can say that only by the work of God I am what I am. God knew each of us, saved us by intervening into our situation, by giving us that perfect word for us, and making us turn to him; then, he gathered us here together as a church for his special mission. That’s why each person here in the church is precious. Let’s pray that God’s work of salvation may be abundant at the conference.

 

Look at verse 28. Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” It seemed that until this time, Peter had a kind of casual attitude toward salvation, assuming that he had already secured eternal life in the kingdom of God because he worked with Jesus. But now as he learned from Jesus, he realized that securing eternal life or salvation was far more difficult than he had thought – it required real struggles, and it was impossible for men to be saved. Realizing this, he wanted to make sure that he was saved, and he wanted to have a kind of confirmation about it from Jesus. What was Jesus’ response? Look at verses 29 and 30. Let’s read these verses together:

 

29 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.” 

 

Jesus fully understood what Peter was talking about and gave his confirmation of not only eternal life in the age to come, but also God’s blessings in the present life. Amazingly, this confirmation is for all those who leave everything behind – when you leave everything to follow Jesus, this confirmation is then, for you. You will not fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.

 

Jesus mentions about several things we leave behind to follow Jesus – home or wife (husband or boyfriend or girlfriend) or brothers (sisters) or parents or children. Home is the place where you enjoy a comfortable life. To some people, this home is everything they have and value. But for the sake of serving God’s kingdom, you sell that kind of a comfortable life. To some others, wife – marriage dream or happy family life – is everything. But for the sake of serving God’s kingdom work, you sell that dream. To some others, parents are everything. Your parents may have a certain expectation for you – maybe, some support emotionally, or materially; or they want you to be successfully in the world. But as you live for God’s kingdom, you cannot live according to their desires. So, they feel abandoned or ignored – they feel sorrowful and betrayed; they misunderstand you and even get angry at you; embracing all the pains and sorrows, you live as Jesus’ disciples. To some others, children are everything. They want to make sure that their children are amply supplied, loved and well educated. Maybe, they had painful childhood or abandoned or mistreated; they don’t want their children to go through such pains or sorrows. They want to make sure that their children grow with beautiful parental love, so they struggle hard to spend time with them; they want to purchase a house with big backyard so that their children can grow with beautiful memory; they want to make sure that their children receive best education, so, sending them to public schools is not acceptable; so they sent them to expensive private schools. As their hearts go to their children, what about serving God? They just go through the motion, doing just minimum, considering God’s mission as a burden. When they live for children, they cannot live for God. Jesus mentions about giving up this desire for children – he fully understands humans. It’s painful. But for the sake of Jesus and his kingdom, we deny this desire and serve God’s kingdom work. When you leave these things to follow Jesus, He confirms with you that you will never fail to receive many times (100 times according to Matthew’s gospel) in this age and in the age to come, eternal life. It means that God blesses you with a much  better job than the job you left; you come to have many parents who show deep concern for your wellbeing; you come to have many brothers and sisters who share deep bond of love and unity; you come to have many children who show deep love and respect to you and obey you.

 

When we think about Jesus’ confirmation of blessings and eternal life for those who leave everything behind to follow him, we can see how much Jesus truly appreciates them. He fully understands how hard it is for us to sell everything to follow him; he fully understands all the pains and sorrows you have swallowed to leave everything to follow him. And he appreciates fully what you have done and how much you have done for him by pouring his blessings in addition to eternal life in the age to come. He knows you. Isn’t this what you truly desire in this life – Jesus knowing you and appreciating what you have done for you?

 

Today we learned the way of eternal life. Let’s receive the kingdom of God like a little child so that we all can enter it. Let’s sell everything we have so that we can have true hope in heaven and live as Jesus’ disciples. When you do so, certainly you will not fail to receive God’s blessings in this age, and in the age to come, eternal life.

 

One Word:      Sell Everything You Have. Then Come, Follow Jesus 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

posted Nov 12, 2017, 10:44 PM by Site Administrator

ALWAYS PRAY AND NOT GIVE UP

 

Luke 18:1-14

Key Verse 18:1

 

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show that they should always pray and not give up.

 

       First, “Grant me justice against my adversary” (1-8). Look at verse 1. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show that they should always pray and not give up.” In chapter 17, Jesus said that the kingdom of God does not come with careful observation, because it is within us. When we have the rule of God in our hearts, the kingdom of God is within us. When Jesus comes again, those who have the kingdom of God within them will be taken up to the sky and meet him in the air, but those whose hearts are occupied with the things of this life will be left. Today’s passage is the continuation of Jesus’ teaching about the coming of the kingdom of God. Now in view of his second coming, what should we, the believers, do? Jesus shows through the parable of a persistent widow that we should always pray and not give up.

 

       In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. He was not godly. Some people are not godly, but at least they are humanistic or sympathetic. But this judge was not sympathetic either. Then, what kind of person was he? He was a cruel man, selfish, self-seeking, willing to pervert justice for his own selfish gain. He was a friend of the rich who could bring him a lot of bribes. Because of him, many poor people did not see justice, and thereby, were sorrowful and oppressed.

 

There was a widow in that town. In those days, a widow was the symbol of the helpless and powerless. She had no provision or protection from anyone. She was mistreated. Since she could not afford the cost for the trial, her case was ignored, and she was deprived of justice. She was sorrowful, but since she had no money, and since the judge neither feared God nor cared about men, it seemed that there was nothing she could do. It seemed that she had to swallow sorrow and bitterness all by herself. But did she give up? No. One day, early in the morning, she visited the judge’s house and knocked at the door, saying, “Please grant me justice against my adversary.” The judge was mad, and kicked her out, saying, “Bring me money.” The judge was not willing to listen to her case. But she didn’t give up; she kept coming to his house. Sometimes, in the morning, sometimes, in the afternoon, even sometimes, at night, with Halloween costume, with a spooky voice, she cried, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” At first, the judge ignored her; but later, he was so bothered by her; he could not sleep because she screamed, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” Finally, he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!” So, he took care of her case.

 

Look at verses 6 through 8a. Let’s read these verses together:

 

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”

 

       Jesus here logically proves and confirms that, if we pray, our prayers will be answered. As our good Father, God surely pays attention to our needs and our cry, and he is more than willing to help us. But there are certain conditions. We must pray for justice, and when we pray, we must pray always, and not give up. We need to check out these two conditions very carefully. The prayer topic we are called to ask is justice. Why do we need to pray for justice? It is because, since the fall of the first man Adam, justice has been removed from the world and from our life. People want happiness; that’s what they desire, so they pursue it, but on the contrary to their wish, most people end up unhappy and miserable. The rich people become miserable, and the poor people become miserable too. As a result, all men cry out in unison, saying, “What shall I do?” “Where is the way?” This is injustice. People want life, so they work hard, then, death, not life, comes and takes them away from their family; despite their wish, they have to leave their homes and families, their dreams and hard-earned success, and someone else comes to enjoy the fruit of their hard labor. This is injustice.

 

Fundamentally, as people live in this world, in this corrupt and fallen world, they live with injustice practiced in their life all the time. The price of sin is very high; people sin, and as a result, their families are broken, and they become failures and losers in the society; they become so lonely and sorrowful in their forties, fifties and sixties with no one around them; no one wants to be with them. People know that if they continue in sin, their life will be ruined and their family broken; so they want to stop sinning, but simply, they cannot; under the power of sin, they are forced to sin continually until they are destroyed completely. This is injustice.

 

We Christians, disciples of Jesus, are asked to overcome all injustice and get what we truly desire through prayer. But there is one more condition, that is, “always pray and not give up.” The expression, “not give up,” shows how, in many cases, things go even if we pray for justice. Simply, often, despite our prayers for help, things do not change; or, despite our prayers, often things get worse; or even sometimes, things look impossible or even things seem already over in failure. We feel like giving up. But Jesus encourages us to not give up in our fight for justice; instead, he wants us to fight for it and pray continually, with his promise that God will see that we get justice, even quickly.

 

Jesus says, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” Here, notice the expression, “who cry out to him day and night.” What kind of expression is “crying out to God day and night?” When do you cry out to God day and night? When you are really desperate! When you have some really important and urgent! What you pray for is something you really desire and pursue; when you pray for it, you mean it. When you pray that way, crying out to God day and night,” God will see that you get justice, and quickly. So, we must pray this way – cry out to God day and night!

 

As Jesus’ disciples, what we desire is something noble, something righteous and beautiful; but instead, we keep on doing what is ugly, what is shameful. We don’t do what we want to do, but we keep on doing what we don’t want to do; we cry out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” This is injustice. Sin is injustice. So, you fight against your sin. How is it going on? In many cases, you are defeated over and over again; yet, you still don’t give up; instead, you keep fighting; you pray for God’s help; often, this kind of fight goes on for years – so many failures, heart-aching moments, and but despite such defeats, you keep going on in this fight, repenting and making a heart’s decision over and over, and keep on praying for God’s help. Your continuous fight itself despite many defeats is an expression of your faith in God. Then, as your battle against sin becomes really serious, as you become really sincere in this fight, God comes to have a chance to intervene into your situation and helps you, launching his mighty power in your heart and life – sometimes, God does it by giving you his word very personally – with God’s word, your eyes are opened to the spiritual world and you see and understand everything differently; sometimes, God does it by launching his power into your body directly – DNAs change, hormone level changes, and your body functions differently that your desires change completely and diseases are gone. By God’s intervention and help, you finally overcome your sin and get justice in your Christian life; finally, you do what you really want to do and don’t do what you don’t want to do. Then, your Christian life is wonderful – holy and righteous.

 

What about then, our mission life? We want to save souls and establish disciples, so we work hard pouring out our time and energy, enduring all related difficulties. Yet, year after year, we remain fruitless; it’s like we work hard for a company, but are not paid for years. Indeed, this is injustice, and Jesus wants us to pray for justice in this matter with his confirmation that God will help us get justice. So, we pray for it and pursue it, asking God to send us his sheep, save souls and establish powerful disciples through us. Maybe, we remain fruitless for one year, two years, maybe, 3 years, or even 7 years. Yet, we still don’t give up. We keep on praying for God’s help and blessing in this matter that we may become exceedingly fruitful. As this fight goes on continually, as we get really sincere and serious about it, as we really mean it, as we make all possible efforts for it, crying out to him day and night, saying, “Lord, isn’t it your desire to save souls? How come you don’t’ do anything even if I offer myself as your instrument?” God comes to have a chance to intervene into our situation and help us. Suddenly, one word of God touches your hearts, and with it you pick up great spirit that your words and attitude change, and your sheep respond very positively; or God himself gives you his words, saying, “Ok, the time has come,” and from that time, you become fruitful.

 

In this way, through prayer and not giving up despite difficulties, you come to get justice in your life of faith, doing what you really want to do and getting what you have desired; as you come to experience God in such important matters, your understanding of God deepens and you enjoy very powerful and fruitful Christian life. Through prayer and experiencing God, you grow in Jesus Christ. When your Christian life goes this way, you are truly happy and satisfied. That’s why this passage, by saying, “they should always pray and not give up,” shows that prayer is a must for Christian’s life. Without this spiritual growth that comes through prayer and experiencing God, we become religious people just like Buddhists monks or Muslims always doing religious things, giving great meaning to religious activities and ceremonies; if your Christian life goes that way, it is really painful – so boring - doing the same things over and over again; you already know all the messages your pastor serves, and your prayer is habitual. Eventually, such people become Pharisees, always criticizing and demanding. We should always pray and not give up. This is a must. I am very thankful for our 40 days prayer for the conference. Through this, we are learning how to pray and what to pray, and we learn to set aside time for God in prayer.

 

       Look at verse 8b. Jesus says, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Here, Jesus relates prayer to faith. When people do not have faith in God, faith that God really takes care of them, faith that God is willing to help them, they cannot pray always – they just try one or two times hoping that something good may happen, but when nothing happens, or even when things get worse, they simply say, “As I thought,…” and give up. When you pray and not give up despite challenging circumstances, then, your prayer itself is the expression of your faith in God. Those who have faith in God can pray always and do not give up, even if there is no change or even if things look bad. Because they trust in God, because they expect something great from God, they cannot give up; they keep praying for God’s help, and they are the ones who eventually see God’s answer for their prayers.

 

       Jesus says, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” As the time of his second coming approaches, more people are found losing their faith. Even when people say, “I believe in Jesus,” in many cases, that does not mean anything, but just an expression of what kind of religion they have; or they say so, because, otherwise, they are afraid of not belonging to any group in the world. Modern day, Christians don’t pray. Some people say that they pray, but what they mean is that they offer prayer before eating foods, or they offer 10 seconds prayer before going to bed. To them, prayer is just a form of their routine activity as Christians – a religious thing they have to perform as Christians, not real struggle before God. This is now the trend among many church going people. By saying, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Jesus expresses his earnest desire to find many people who have faith in God in this last generation. He wants to see his believers having faith in God – not just some religiosity. He wants to see his disciples praying all the time because of their absolute faith in God. He wants to see many great men and women of faith; he wants to see many great warriors of prayer. Pray always and do not give up! Cry out to God for help day and night!

 

       Second, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (9-14). Look at verse 9. As Jesus was delivering this message that was about prayer and faith to his disciples, some people were nodding their heads, and said, “Yes, you are right. They must pray always and not give up.” And some others said, “Amen. They must learn this lesson.” Verse 9 describes them as “those who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else.” This expression shows that they had been praying all the time and were confident of their religious life. So, Jesus gave another parable to show them with what kind of attitude they must pray to God.

 

       Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Look at verses 11 and 12. “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” About his payer, two expressions stand out – “stood up” and “prayed about himself.” The expression, “Stood up” shows his confidence. In his prayer, he was bold and confident. Yet, his confidence was not in God’s goodness and love for him, but in his own activities and performance. Then, while he thought that he had performed so many great things excellently, why did he come to God in prayer? What was his prayer topic? Actually, he did not have any prayer topic; in his prayer, he just prayed about himself, bragging about what good things he had done and how good he had been, feeling so proud that he was not like those party animals or tax collectors.

 

Yet, how did the tax collector pray? Look at verse 13. Let’s read this verse together:

 

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 

       This man stood at a distance. There were designated prayer seats in the temple. But this man stood at a distance, instead of occupying one of the prayer seats, because he knew that he did not deserve such privilege. While other people came, worshiped and prayed to God confidently, he was standing there in the corner, because he knew how terrible his sin was, and now his heart was full of remorse and regret. But about his sin that was more clear than crimson tide, there was nothing he could do; just standing at a distance, beating his breast in pain and sorrow, he said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” He also did not mention about his specific prayer topic, but just asked for God’s mercy. What kind of mercy from God? On what? Any kind! Just a hint of God’s mercy on him would be more than enough; he would doggedly accept it and be thankful about it because that would be the sign that God had not rejected him and that he had still a chance in God despite his terrible sins.

 

       In verse 14, Jesus says, “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.” The word, “justify” means to make someone or something just. Originally, the tax collector was not just before God due to his wrongdoings; he was a sinner, deserving God’s punishment. But now he was made just before God, because God forgave him of his sins; he was now considered innocent in God’s eyes. The Pharisee went home, but not justified, showing that he was also a sinner when he came to God in prayer, even if he had done so many good-looking things. Outwardly, due to those activities and performance, due to his Bible knowledge and religious and moralistic life, he looked good, but in God’s eyes, he was not good – instead, he was still a sinner, deserving God’s punishment. But due to his activities and performance, he did not recognize it; so, he only bragged about himself. As a result, he was not forgiven.

 

       With these two men’s example in their attitude to God in prayer, Jesus shows us how we must approach God in prayer – not with a self-righteous attitude, but with a humble and repentant attitude. We are all sinners – some are well performing sinners, and some are just openly terrible sinners. We all need God’s forgiveness and justification in Jesus Christ. Jesus, through these two people’s examples, shows us that it’s all up to how we approach God in prayer that we may or may not be justified. How do you approach God in prayer? How do you approach others in your practical life? Like the Pharisee? Or like the tax collector?

 

       In today’s passage, we learned that, as we wait for Jesus’ second coming, we must pray always for justice and not give up. Let’s pray that justice may prevail in our society and in our lives. In the year 2017 and beyond, let’s pray always and never give up in any circumstances. In this way, we may really learn prayer. May God bless our upcoming conference abundantly; let there be great salvation work and 40 new disciples rise through this conference. Also, let’s get rid of any hint of pride, arrogance and self-righteousness. Instead, let’s come to God in prayer with a broken and contrite heart, earnestly asking for his mercy.

 

One Word:      Always Pray And Not Give Up

 

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