Current Message

To get your own copy of the message...
Download the PDF file from the Written Message Page and
Get a recording of the message from the Audio Messages Page.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

posted Apr 14, 2019, 9:14 PM by Site Administrator

IF YOU LOVE ME, YOU WILL OBEY WHAT I COMMAND

 

John 14:15-31

Key Verses 14:15,16

 

"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--

 

First, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (15-20). Look at verse 15. “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” That’s Jesus’ understanding. If you love Jesus, then, naturally you will obey Jesus’ commands. That’s what Jesus expected from his disciples. The opposite is true too as Jesus says in verse 24. If anyone does not love him, he will not obey his teaching. Maybe, they will do some Christian things; maybe, they develop a lot of Bible knowledge. But eventually, they do not obey his teaching. Why? It’s because obeying his commands is challenging and costly. Not only obeying Jesus’ commands, but obeying anyone’s commands is not easy. Let’s say, your father’s command is that you eat breakfast together with the whole family at 7 o’clock. How is it? It’s not easy to keep it. Let’s say, your father is so generous that he says “8 o’clock breakfast”? That’s still not easy. Then, what about 11 o’clock brunch? Still not easy. Indeed, living in obedience someone’s command whoever that person may be, or whatever that command may be, is not easy. Then, what about obeying Jesus’ command? His way is higher than our ways; his thought is greater than ours. Sometimes, we have to do what we do not want to do; sometimes, there are a lot of pains and sorrows. Sometimes we have to sacrifice a lot of things we hold dear. Who are willing to bear such pains and sorrows continually to obey Jesus’ commands? Only those who love Jesus. They value Jesus far more than those things. What about those who do not love Jesus? They may try, doing this and that, doing many Christian things. But what? Eventually what do they choose to do? They choose what they really value; eventually, they cannot obey Jesus’ commands. So, in Jesus’ eyes, while everyone says, “I love Jesus,” only those who obey his commands are the ones who love him. Based on that fact, Jesus sees who is who.

 

When Jesus sees those who love him by obeying commands, he supports them by sending them the Holy Spirit. He says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you foreverthe Spirit of truth.” Here, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit in two ways – another Counselor and the Spirit of truth. The title, “another Counselor” shows that the Holy Spirit’s main job for the disciples is counseling service, showing them which way to go and what to do and what not to do. The disciples could understand this term very well, “another Counselor,” because Jesus as their leader and shepherd had been their Counselor thus far. Even if Jesus would be gone, indeed, he would come back to them in the form of the Holy Spirit. The expression, “the Spirit of truth” shows the Holy Spirit’ truthful character. The Holy Spirit leads Jesus’ disciples into the way of the truth, showing them what is really right and what is wrong, what they must do and what they must not do. Through having fellowship with the Holy Spirit, the disciples come to know the truth and develop the truthful character too. In that way, they grow in Jesus as men and women of truth, knowing the truth and exercising the truth.

 

Look at verse 17. Let’s read this verse together:

 

17 The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

 

The world does not acknowledge the Holy Spirit, so it cannot accept Him. But Jesus said to the disciples, “But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” At this, maybe, the disciples scratched their heads, wondering if they really knew the Holy Spirit; indeed, they were not sure of it. But Jesus confirmed with them that they did know him. On what basis? Jesus said to them, “For he lives with you and will be in you.” As the disciples served God’s work together with Jesus, the Holy Spirit was with them, helping them. The disciples had no idea about it, but that’s the fact, and that’s how they could do many great things by the help of the Holy Spirit. And later, when God’s redemption plan was fulfilled through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit on the day of the Pentecost, would come into them and live in them, in their body.

 

Jesus says, “But you know the Holy Spirit, for he lives with you and will be in you.” When we serve God’s work, the Holy Spirit lives with us, helping us and guiding us. That’s why we have come to experience many amazing things. Sometimes, during Bible study with our sheep, we find ourselves speaking amazing things of God, which we have never thought about; sometimes, out of nowhere we see sheep jumping into our boats; sometimes, we see our midterms or finals are postponed for no reason, only to help us. The Holy Spirit, the Almighty God, lives with you to help you and support you in doing God’s work. What great life we enjoy then! You know the Holy Spirit, for he lives with you.

 

But that’s not all. At a certain time, when the right conditions are met, the Holy Spirit will come into you and live in your body. As a result, two persons – your own person and the Holy Spirit – will live in your body. This is a divine mystery, but this is really true. Many years ago, in regard to speaking in tongue, some people challenged me, saying, “How do you know whether it is the Holy Spirit praying in you, or an evil spirit screaming and cursing? If it is the Holy Spirit, do you know his prayer topics?” It was obvious to me that He lived in me, but their question was a kind of intriguing. I accepted their challenge. I went to God in prayer that night and pretended to be like a sullen kid, saying, “Lord, you say that you love me. But how can I know that you really love me, when you do not let me know what you pray for?” While I was praying, other disciples who were praying together with me in the church giggled. Later, they said that they had never heard that kind of prayer, so funny.  Then, God’s answer was: “I live in you despite your sins.” I was so embarrassed. The expression of God’s love for me was that despite my sins, the Holy God was staying in me, bearing with all my smelly and dirty sins. Suddenly I was reminded of my sins, and I felt so ashamed. At the same time, I could see his love for me – because he loved me, he was enduring such smells and filthiness. At this, I shouted, “I am sorry, Lord. I will never ask you such a thing. I repent.”

 

When the Holy Spirit lives in your body, the fellowship with Him becomes much more real, and your understanding of God and having fellowship with Him deepens. Jesus says that on that day, when the Holy Spirit lives in you, you will realize that Jesus is in the Father, and you are in him, and he is in you. When Jesus mentioned about forming oneness with the Trinity God, it sounded conceptual and theological, simply not so realistic – being one with the Almighty God???!!!. But when the Holy Spirit lives in them, they would really understand what it means for them to form the unity with the Trinity God, because it is a reality in their life.

 

After getting the answer and gentle rebuke from the Holy Spirit about his love for me, I thought about it a lot. It was really touching. Living with a proud person in a studio apartment, or even taking a class with a sinful person is hard; people cannot bear with such people; they hate each other or they become enemies; that’s why people marry because they think they love, but in two years, they hate each other and divorce. But the Holy Spirit, despite our smelly sins, lives with us, and even in us, bearing with all our sins and filthiness, with long suffering patience. That is the expression of his intense love for us, and that is the evidence of his amazing humility. Sometime later, as I was meditating on this, I was really amazed at His humility. His humility was perfect – nothing to add or improve, just perfect, so marvelous and beautiful. Through it, I could see what kind of person Jesus was, and how he dealt with all kinds of people – Jesus was so beautiful in his meekness. Then, I suddenly realized that I had been exposed to God’s person, God’s character – the perfection in humility. Then, out of the depth of my heart, praise and thanks rose; I praised the Holy Spirit with all my heart and strength. Then, for the next two days, I became like Him in humility, in meekness, speaking tenderly to my children. When God’s glory was reflected on me, I became like him, being so meek and humble. When I had humility like the Holy Spirit, nothing was bothering me. Then, my daughter Sarah said to me, “Dad, today you are different.” I answered, “Yes, I am different, because I have been exposed to God’s person.” Jesus says, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” Today, the Holy Spirit lives with you. Praise God! You can enjoy fellowship with him and do mighty works with him. But He also wants to live in you. Seek God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness with all your heart and strength so that you may be prepared as a vessel for the Holy Spirit to dwell in. Worship God in spirit, for God seeks such worshipers. Indeed, we are living in a blessed era – the last days when God pours out his Spirit on everyone, on anyone who is prepared.

 

Second, “And I too will love him and show myself to him” (21). Look at verse 21. Let’s read this verse together:

 

21  Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

 

          Everyone says, “I love Jesus.” But in Jesus’ eyes, only those who have his commands and obey them are the ones who love him. What commands? Notice here, “commands” in plural. Didn’t he issue only one command, that is, to love one another? Then, how come, “commands”? There are many commands Jesus issues for us: “Love one another” is his command. “Go and make disciples of all nations” is another command. “Feed my sheep” is another command. When we think about the expression, “Whoever has my commands,” we can see that having his commands is personal. You personally accept certain instructions or directions as Jesus’ commands. People do not show absoluteness toward the Sunday worship service, but you accept it as Jesus’ command for you, and thereby, you keep it absolutely above your family gathering or your business trip – they do not have this command, but you have it; no matter how other Christians do, you keep the Sunday worship service absolutely, arranging all your schedules around the worship time. You accept Jesus’ command to be a shepherd for his flock on college campuses personally, and thereby, you make complete devotion to it that despite such rejections and persecutions, you keep doing it, even shedding a lot of tears – you have Jesus’ command, but others don’t have it. People consider sin casually, saying, “No one is perfect. God loves sinners,” and they keep sinning. But some people have Jesus’ commands in regard to their sins, and thereby, fight against their sins wholeheartedly. There are many commands you accept as Jesus’ commands for you personally such as writing a sincere testimony and attending the Friday meeting absolutely, or honoring your physical and spiritual parents and obeying them. Having Jesus’ commands and obeying them is personal. You keep them absolutely no matter how others say or do.

 

In Jeremiah 31, God talked about the New Covenant He would make. “The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant… This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time… I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Writing his law on the peoples’ hearts indicates that it is personal. When God’s laws are written in your hearts, you struggle to keep them absolutely, while others who don’t have God’s laws just do whatever they want to do. They cannot understand why you do so; they just ridicule you as exclusive people, or as even legalistic people. Simply, they don’t have Jesus’ commands, and thereby, they don’t obey them. As a result, in their Christian life, there is no true turning to God, no true commitment, no mission, and no purpose; they just go through the motion and talk all kinds of things which they don’t know. Maybe, only their mouths are spiritual. Those who have God’s laws written on their hearts and thereby keep them are God’s people according to the terms and conditions of God’s New Covenant. Those who have Jesus’ commands and obey them are those who love Jesus really. Blessed are you when you have God’s laws in your hearts. Blessed are you when you have Jesus’ commands and obey them. You are God’s covenant people.

 

          Jesus says, “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” When you struggle to keep Jesus’ commands, willing to lose your own dreams and desires in this life, how do you look in God’s eyes? You look so precious – God can see your heart’s love for him. While you keep looking for students, despite many rejections, how do you look in God’s eyes? You look so beautiful. Think about a child who struggles hard to do what his father wants him to do – the task is so challenging and painful for him to do, yet, he struggles all the more, shedding tears for pains and sorrows; while crying and crying, he still does what his father wants him to do. How does he look in the eyes of the father? So cute! In this way, when we have Jesus’ commands and struggle to obey them, we are so beautiful and precious in God’s eyes - we are indeed, his treasured possession. God’s heart goes to us naturally, and He loves us so much. God loves the world, yet his love for those who have Jesus’ commands and obey them is different – God’s treasured possession.

 

          Not only so, Jesus says, “and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Obeying Jesus’ commands is not easy, because he is holy and we are not holy, and because his ways are higher than our ways. But when we have his commands and struggle to obey them, he watches over us, and helps us. When our pain grows more, when we reach our limit, he reveals himself to us, usually, right before we collapse. He is always at the right time, and He is never late. When he shows himself to us in our struggle to obey his commands, there we experience him very personally. Experiencing him personally is the most amazing thing. Once you experience him, your eyes are opened to his beauty and his grace becomes real to you, and you love him all the more. There, once you experience him, you come to see everything differently – what is really beautiful and what is really important, what you must really hope for and pursue. There, everything changes – your life purpose, your hope, your desire. Long time ago, I experienced him. When I reached my limit, he visited me in my small common life room and showed his glory to me, saying, “I know you.” There, all sorrows and loneliness were gone from my heart; happiness and the sense of satisfaction filled my heart. The eternal life I tasted there was so good and wonderful. Then, everything changed. Until then, I pictured my Christian life as the life of a wounded wolf. My Christian life was so difficult – I had many wounds and scars, deep pains, sorrows and loneliness – I became a man of sorrows. Yet, still there was no other choice, because, as I was born again, heaven was real and the hell was real too, and I must not go to hell, but heaven. So, embracing all pains and wounds and scars, I was struggling to live as a Christian. But when Jesus showed himself to me, everything changed; Christian life was a wonderful life, having fellowship with him, and working together with him, and experiencing him. Wow!!! What a wonderful life it was! Then, my whole life purpose and hope changed: It was to meet him and know him, and for this, I would go wherever he led me. Do you want Jesus to show himself to you? Do you want to experience him? Then, have Jesus’ commands and obey them! Love Jesus by obeying his commands, and he will show himself to you.

 

          Third, “We will come to him and make our home with him” (22-31). Look at verse 22. Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" During the upper room dialogue, Jesus revealed himself as God, the way and the truth and the life; he identified himself with God the Father, saying, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” And now he said that if they obeyed his commands, he would show himself to them. Thaeddius wondered how come Jesus didn’t show himself to the world so that all people would know him and worship him, if he were really God. How com he chose to reveal himself to only the 11 apostles. He could not understand Jesus’ way of working. Actually, we too think in the same way. If Jesus reveals himself to the world, many people would worship him. How come Jesus chooses to reveal himself to his disciples?

 

What was Jesus’ answer? Look at verses 23 and 24. Let’s read these verses together:

 

23  Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

 

At a first glance, Jesus’ answer sounds incoherent; it seems that his response is not related to the question. But it was. Jesus says, “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” Even if Jesus reveals himself to the world, even if he proves himself as God, still eventually people will not obey his teaching, because they do not love him. Then, his point was: What’s the point of showing myself to the world? In his eyes, no point at all. But what about his 11 apostles? They loved him, and thereby, obeyed his teaching. So, he chose to show himself to them continually. What do you see here? We see here the ultimate result Jesus expects from us, that is, we live the life of obeying his teaching, obeying his commands. That’s the ultimate goal, real essence of our Christian life. Only those who love Jesus live that kind of life, and Jesus shows himself to them continually, and thereby, they come to know him more and more. In such peoples’ life, God’s creation order is restored. This is what the Bible is talking about from Genesis to Revelation. In Jesus Christ, we finally live in obedience to God’s commands, God’s will and purpose. This is what Christian life is about – not that we live a religious life, having Christianity as our religion, and doing some Christian things just in the same way the Muslims do Islam things, but that we live the life of obeying God’s commands, God’s laws. That is the real essence of our Christian life. Do you love Jesus? Then, have Jesus’ commands and obey them. That’s what Jesus expects from you. Without it, your Christian life has no purpose, no direction and no point. Only those who love Jesus do so, while those who do not love him don’t. When you do so, Jesus will show himself to you continually, and you will be really happy with him.

 

          Look at verse 23 again. Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Here, pay attention to the expression, “We will make our home with him.” God the Father and God the Son comes to you and make their home with you – this is very touching. When you love Jesus by obeying his commands, God the Father and God the Son offer you a home environment relationship. At home, you relax; you don’t have tension. You sit around the table with Jesus and God the Father, and you talk mouthful. There you are free to talk to him and enjoy fellowship with him; you can talk about anything. Indeed, there you enjoy freedom.

 

          Here we see great contrast. As you have Jesus’ commands and obey them, you show absoluteness toward his will and purpose, no compromise, but absolute loyalty and faithfulness, just like well-disciplined and reliable soldier. Your obedience to Jesus’ will and purpose is complete. Then, God offers you a home environment relationship so that you can enjoy life together with them freely. This is the real picture of our Christian life. We love God above all other things and thereby, obey his commands, his will and his purpose absolutely. As we do so, we come to enjoy such wonderful fellowship with Him. Think about Abraham. He enjoyed such wonderful fellowship with God. But when God’s command came, he was absolute, even obeying the command to sacrifice his only son Isaac as a burnt offering to God. He was indeed free to love God and serve Him. This is what Jesus talks about when he said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

 

          It is all Christians’ dream to have this kind of wonderful fellowship with God the Father and God the Son – a home environment fellowship with God. But the problem is that they don’t have God’s commands and they don’t obey them. Without doing their portion, they just claim that wonderful fellowship. It does not work. They must love God. How? By accepting God’s calling, God’s will as God’s commands for them and obeying them absolutely. They must do their portion first so that they can have real fellowship with God.

 

Look at verses 25 through 27. So far, in his upper room dialogue, Jesus talked to his disciples very heavy messages and it seemed that his disciples neither understood nor accepted his teaching. But despite their objections, Jesus did not despair because he knew that when the Holy Spirit came to them, He would teach them all things and help them remember his teaching. So entrusting all other matters into the hands of the Holy Spirit, he blessed his disciples, saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

 

Look at verses 28 through 31. Let’s read these verses responsively:

 

28"You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. "Come now; let us leave.

 

Dying on the cross was painful and shameful. But he died willingly, of his own accord. Why? Because he wanted to obey God’s command by any means. Thus, he proved that he loved God more than anything—even more than his own life. As the time of his crucifixion was approaching, he became victorious in spirit, because his death on the cross was his victory that, despite such difficulties, he obeyed God’s command. Despite such difficulties, he did not forsake God’s mission or make any excuse, but he obeyed God to the end. He was so victorious that he said, “But the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” If we love Jesus, we do what he commands us to do no matter how hard and costly it may be. Then, we become victorious, having a powerful testimony, saying, “Despite such difficulties, I have obeyed God’s command.” Even in a seeming difficult situation, we become powerful like warriors. Think about you saying this with cracking voice in your death bed, “The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” An electric shock will go through their bodies, and they will have goose bumps. When you have this testimony, you are true victors in life.

 

One Word: If You Love Me, You Will Obey What I Command

Sunday, April 7, 2019

posted Apr 7, 2019, 3:10 PM by Site Administrator

ANYONE WHO HAS SEEN ME HAS SEEN THE FATHER

 

John 14:7-14

Key Verse 14:9

 

Jesus answered, Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

 

First, From now on, you do know him and have seen him (7). In the previous passage, we heard the most bold and solemn proclamation of Jesus when he said, I am the way and the truth and the life. Jesus is the cause, reason, and purpose of all things that are there in the universe, both in the visible realm and the invisible realm. He is all to all. Right after making such a solemn proclamation, Jesus said to his disciples, If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him. Let’s read verse 7 together:

 

7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.

 

Here, the Father refers to Jehovah Elohim, the God of Israel. He is the Sovereign Ruler. He created the universe and everything in it. He is the One who made the Garden of Eden and gave it to Adam as his special gift. He is the One who called one old man, named Abram and shepherded over him until he became a blessing. He is the One who said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM. He is the One who came down on Mt. Sinai in thick clouds with billows of smoke and an ever-louder trumpet sound right before the eyes of the Israel people. When the Israel people saw this glory of God, they were terrified. They were so afraid that the mountain would melt and the earth would collapse any moment because of the awesome glory of God. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. (Exo. 24:7) So they cried out to Moses, saying, Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die. Now Jesus said to his disciples, If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. Are you children of God? If so, shouldn’t you know your Father, Jehovah Elohim? Yes, you should. Then, how can you know Him? The way to know this awesome God, Jehovah Elohim, is to really know Jesus, and if you know Jesus, you do know Jehovah Elohim, and if you have seen Jesus, you have seen Jehovah Elohim. 

 

How can you know Jesus really? This knowing Jesus really is different from having some knowledge or information about him. Do you know Donald Trump? We know him because we have seen him on the TV, or heard about him – we know that he is the President of the USA; we know what he said and did. But do we really know him? No. We don’t know him because we don’t have personal relationship with him. Many people think that they know Jesus because they read the Bible or heard many sermons just in the same way they know Donald Trump. They think that they know Jesus because they memorize what he says in the Bible, or because they write about him. But that’s not what Jesus is talking about when he says, If you really knew me,…

 

In high school, you had many classmates, but do you know them really? Mostly not! Even between husband and wife, often they feel that they don’t know each other. So, how can we know anyone really? By having life together, and by working together for a certain task wholeheartedly. As you pursue a certain task with that person wholeheartedly, both of you go through many ups and downs, sharing great victories and painful failures together, laughing and weeping together, and through all these things, you come to know that person really. That’s how you can know a person really. That’s how we can know Jesus really – by working together with him for something very important, something real, and thereby, going through all challenges and difficulties together, sharing all victories and failures together, laughing and weeping together – through all these struggles and experiences, you come to know him really – who he is, what kind of person he is, what he likes, what he dislikes, his hopes and desires, his plans and purposes. When you know him really this way, you know the Father as well. 

 

Then, Jesus said to the disciples, From now on you do know him and have seen him. In Jesus’ eyes, his disciples did know him, and thereby, they did know the Father and had seen him. Actually, at this, his disciples did not think that they knew the Father or had seen him. Instead, they were a little bit confused, and scratching their head, they said to him, But Lord, I am not sure about that. Even they did not think that they knew the Father and had seen him. But how come Jesus saw it that way and even proclaimed about it, saying, From now on you do know him and have seen him? What was the basis of this conclusion? He saw it that way, because they had indeed had life together with him, pursuing and serving God’s kingdom work with him for the past 3 years. Indeed, they had been through many things together, and thereby, came to know each other. In Jesus’ eyes, they indeed knew him, and thereby, knew the Father as well. 

 

Do you know the Father? Have you seen Him? At these questions, we are hesitant to answer. We are not really sure if we can say, Yes. We are just like Philip, saying to Jesus, But Lord, I don’t think I have seen Him yet. But based on our life dedicated to his kingdom work, Jesus says, From now on you do know him and have seen him. Whether we acknowledge it or not, in Jesus’ eyes, we do know the Father and have seen himbased on the fact that we have had life together with him, by dedicating ourselves to God’s work for the past several years.We are really comforted. We can see that Jesus truly recognizeswhat we have been through to serve God’s kingdom work for the past several years. 

 

Second, Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father(8-11). Look at verse 8. When Philip heard Jesus say, From now on you do know him and have seen him, he could not wait any longer. He asked Jesus, Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us. He could not simply accept Jesus’ statement that said, You do know him and have seen him,because he had never seen the glory of God yet. In the Bible he read that the Israelites saw the glory of God that came down on Mt. Sinai as a consuming fire with an ever-increasing trumpet sound and with thunder and lightning, with billows of smoke going up and up, which caused them to be terrified. But even though he had followed Jesus for three and a half years, still he had never seen such glory. He could not accept Jesus’ statement that he had seen the Father. As he remembered what Jesus had done and said so far, there was some possibility that Jesus might be the awesome God of Israel, but he still could not accept it. Sohe said, Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us. If only he saw the glory of God as his forefathers had seen on Mt. Sinai, that would be enough for him to say, Now I do know him and have seen him.

 

What was Jesus’ reply to him? Look at verses 9 through 11. Let’s read these verses together:

 

9Jesus answered, Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, Show us the Father10Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

 

How sorry Jesus was when Philip did not accept his message! Jesus felt so sorry that he said to Philip, Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe? Jesus was really hurt. Not too often had Jesus exposed himself this way; he was really pleading with Philip. Many people say exactly the same words, If God appears to me and speaks to me, I will believe and obey. With this, they refuse to obey God. But they don’t know how much Jesus is hurt when they say so. Surely, Jesus has been with them during their whole life, and even now is helping them by sending his servants personally, but they still don’t believe and obey. What they really need is simply to trust in Jesus and follow his guidance. 

 

Jesus’ words in this passage sound like a riddle in our ears. Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. I am in the Father, and the Father is in me. What is he talking about? Here, Jesus identifies himself together with the Father; he didn’t say that he is the Father, but he did say that seeing him is seeing the Father. Jesus prays for all the believers in John 17:21, …that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. He also says in verses 22 and 23, …that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity… So, here, the statement, I am in the Father and the Father is in me, reveals complete unity, complete oneness between the Father and the Son Jesus. They are two persons, but they are one, forming complete unity, living and doing things in complete harmony – this is the mystery of the Trinity God. 

 

How could he make such unity with the Father? The clue is found in Jesus’ words, I am in the Father and the Father is in me. The first expression, I am in the Father, means that he did everything in God’s will. All his will and purpose, direction and meaning of life were completely in line with God's will and purpose. This explains the Son’s struggle to live and do everything according to the Father’s will and purpose. Jesus did everything God wanted him to do; Jesus didn’t do anything God disliked. Even though he was a free man who could do whatever he desired, he took the form of a servant and lived for God according to God's will and purpose. Moreover, as the Almighty God, he could indeed do what he desired; yet, he submitted himself to the Father's will and purpose and did everything the Father wanted him to do. Now, as he checked out his life - how he had lived and what he had pursued, he could confidently say that he was in the Father. I am in the Father. When Jesus said this, he was indeed victorious. Despite all difficulties and temptations, despite all sorrows and pains, he had lived in God, and now, at the end of his life, he was victorious - I am in the Father. He was a true victor. How happy we are when we can say, I am in the Father. In regard to the job matter, I am in the Father. In regard to the marriage matter, I am in the Father. In regard to the future direction, I am in the Father. Such statement comes from the struggle of denying oneself and submitting oneself to God's will and purpose. Self-seeking people can never understand this; they can never say, I am in the Father.

 

When the Son struggled this way, submitting himself to the Father's will, how did the Father respond? He felt so good; he felt so honored and loved; and out of honor and respect for the Son, the Father also did everything in the will and purpose of the Son. The Father submitted Himself to the will and purpose of the Son and did everything the Son wanted. In this way, the Father was in the Son. Whatever the Son wanted, that's what the Father wanted; whatever the Son said, that's what the Father wanted to say. In this way, the Father and the Son formed the complete unity, the complete oneness in the life of Jesus, by submitting themselves to each other. Jesus boldly says, I am in the Father, and the Father is in me. They are one in humility; they are one in submission to each other; they are one in love for each other; they are one in love for the fallen mankind. The Son is just like the Father in nature, in love, in humility, in direction, desire, purpose and in everything. Indeed, anyone who has seen Jesus has seen the Father.

 

This unity between the Father and the Son is indeed mysterious, divine and glorious - our God is indeed great and beautiful. We have seen God's nature, God's character, God's beauty - in their humility, submission, and love for each other.Indeed, our God is beautiful; our God is wonderful. And amazingly, Jesus wants us to participate in this unity of the Trinity GodIn John 17, we see Jesus’ prayer topic for all the believers. He says, I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us... 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity... Jesus expresses his desire to extend this complete unity to all the believers, saying, May they also be in us... I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity... Jesus’ will for you and for me is that we may partake in the blessed oneness of God the Father and God the Son. Once we form oneness with the Trinity God, we no longer think or say or act like sinful and proud humans, but we think like God and live like God. Surely, it is Jesus’ invitation for us to participate in God’s character - in his humility, in his gentleness and kindness, in his submission, in his love for each other, and in his love for mankind. He wants us to live like God, instead of living as silly, selfish and proud humans. This is Jesus’ invitation for us to participate in God's nature. How can we form oneness with the Trinity God? The secret is submission! Instead of insisting our own understanding and desires, we must submit ourselves to God, living for God and pursuing God's will and purpose. We strive to live in God, doing everything in line with God's will and purpose. No more silly and proud human beings, but children of God so mature, beautiful and praiseworthy, just like God Himself. 

 ThirdAnyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (12-14). Even though Philip seemed to not believe in his deity that he was God, and that the Father was in him, and that he was in the Father, Jesus did not despair. Rather, in verses 12 through 14, he showed his disciples how things would change when they acknowledged him as God. Look at verse 12. Let’s read this verse together:

 

12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 

 

Jesus says, I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. That’s what happens to anyone who has faith in Jesus. Until then, the disciples did not see him as God – the object of faith. Even though they understood him as the Son of God, still it did not mean that they considered him as the object of faith, but as the object of respect and honor. But then, when they truly knew him as their God, the object of their faith, they would live a totally different life; their attitude toward him would change completely and they would do what Jesus had been doing. What had he been doing? He had been serving great works of God, teaching, preaching, establishing disciples and performing great miracles. Jesus says that if you have faith in him, you too will do what he did, dedicating yourselves to God’s work and doing great works of God. Your life changes completely from an ordinary life to the life of doing God’s work, the life of Jesus’ disciples, the life of God’s servants. This great change happens to anyone, everyone who has faith in Jesus. Do you have faith in Jesus? Then, this change happens to you as well! How come such great change happens? It is because, when they acknowledge Jesus as their God, the object of their faith, they can see what their God pursued and did; they can see what their God wants; God’s will becomes clear to them. Thus, they dedicate themselves to what Jesus did, serving God’s kingdom work, teaching, preaching, and even performing great miracles by God’s power. When we think about what Jesus says here, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing,” his emphasis is that we will do great things, even as great as what he did, because of our faith in him. No longer that ordinary life, but the life of doing great things in Jesus – this happens to everyone who has faith in Jesus, not just the twelve apostles, not just great Pastors such as Chuck Smith, but everyone, including you and me. Aren’t you excited to do what Jesus did? Aren’t you thrilled to live a great life? 

 

Jesus also says, He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 2,000 years ago, Jesus served mainly a small country Israel, walking on foot, and only for three and a half years. He was limited by time and space. But when Jesus went to the Father, he sent his Holy Spirit toeveryone who believed, and empowered them to do mighty works of God. Simon Peter converted 3,000 people in one day and established the powerful church in Jerusalem despite enemies’ threat. The apostle Paul changed the course of history. John Wesley established a powerful Christian church called Methodist Church that has covered the whole world. When Billy Graham served God's words in Seoul Korea in 1973, 1.1 million people gathered. In Christian history, there are so many mighty servants of God who have done great works of evangelism, even greater things than Jesus did – there are as many as stars in the universe

 

He will do even greater things than these. When we think about this statement of Jesus, we are only shocked, and at the same time, thrilled at what great things Jesus wants us to do. Jesus wants each of us to do even greater things than he did. Doing even greater things than Jesus did! Wow! We are really thrilled! This is far greater and fulfilling than establishing a silly career successfully in the world. Let’s establish 200 disciples this year. Let’s conquer all the campuses in California, in America, and in the world. Let’s aim to become world classspiritual leaders. Let’s aim to change the course of human history. Jesus’ vision for us is this: He will do even greater things than these.

 

Look at verses 13 and 14. Let’s read these verses together:

 

13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

 

While Jesus was with them, the disciples did not pray. At that time, Jesus was not the object of their prayer. But when he was gone, when they acknowledged him as their God, they would pray to him, and Jesus promised that he would do whatever they asked him for. That’s what happens to everyone who acknowledge Jesus as their God - you do what Jesus did, and pray for help in Jesus’ name. What should we pray for? Two words stand out: Whatever and anything. But here, whatever is not whatever you want, but whatever you need as you struggle to do what Jesus did. Jesus says, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. This is Jesus’ confirmation that he will surely answer our prayers as we struggle to do God’s work in his name. When we do great works of God by doing what Jesus did and praying, God will be revealed to the world.

 

In conclusion, when we know Jesus really, we know the Father, Jehovah Elohim. Let’s have life together with Jesus by working together with him for God’s kingdom work so that we may know him really. Let’s form a beautiful unity with the Father, with the Son and with one another, by humbly submitting ourselves to God’s will fully, and we will be indeed blessed and happy to be found in him. Jesus also invites us to do mighty works of God by faith, saying, Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these. Let’s accept Jesus’ vision for us. Together with the Holy Spirit, and through prayer, with absolute faith in Jesus, we can conquer the world and advance God’s kingdom powerfully on earth. 

 

One Word: From Now On, You Do Know The Father And Have Seen Him

Sunday, March 31, 2019

posted Mar 31, 2019, 3:14 PM by Site Administrator

7

 

I AM THE WAY

 

John 14:1-6

Key Verse 14:6

 

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 

First, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (1). Look at verse 1. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” Jesus’ disciples were anxious because they heard that Jesus was going away and they could not follow him. Actually, it was not only during the last supper meal that Jesus talked about his departure, but for the past few months. But now the message of Jesus’ departure came to them very realistically and they realized that Jesus would surely go away and they would be left alone in the world. They felt so sorry that Jesus would die. They felt like crying sorrowfully. They did not want to lose their loving master. Also, they felt embarrassed because, now, since Jesus was going away, their lives would turn out to be total failures. When Jesus called them, they left everything, investing everything in Jesus, and followed him. Even if the disciples’ life was not easy, they could bear all difficulties and sufferings because of the hope that, when Jesus established his kingdom, all of their dreams would be fulfilled. But now, Jesus said that he would go away, leaving them behind like a whole bunch of orphans. They were puzzled greatly. What was worse, once Jesus went away, who would take care of them? Where would the next meal come from? They were quiet at a loss without knowing what to do, and they did not know how to express their complex and mixed emotions and feelings at that moment. In one word, they felt troubled in heart. Jesus knew this very well. 

 

He comforted them saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This expression is very unique. When your heart is troubled, you are troubled. But Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t be troubled.” Instead, he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Our heart is neutral; in a troublesome situation, we can decide to be troubled, or at that time, we decide to be strong and stand firm. The disciples felt like being troubled because it was a troublesome situation. But Jesus encouraged them not to let their hearts be troubled. Jesus wanted his disciples to be very strong, so that even in deep anguish or in a troublesome situation, they might not lose their hearts and be shaken by outward circumstances. When we think about the situation – Judas’ betrayal and his painful death, actually, it was Jesus who should be troubled the most. But see Jesus here, embracing his own troubled heart all by himself, he was struggling to comfort and strengthen his disciples – he indeed loved them to the end. “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Sometimes, we want to let our hearts be troubled when things do not go well. When something sorrowful happens in our lives, we know at that moment that we have a choice either to make a decision to trust in God and believe in His good will, or to let sorrow overtake us completely. In many cases, we choose to dwell in sorrow; when people try to comfort us and encourage us to have faith in God, we say, “I know, but let me be sorrowful just a little longer,” and we cry more. Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus wants us to be really strong in heart that no matter what circumstances we may be in, we may be able to say something positive, something encouraging, and something faithful and live as reliable servants of God. 

 

How could the disciples not let their hearts be troubled even in a troublesome situation? How could they be strong in a tough situation, when things were very difficult, and when they felt sad and distressed? Jesus says, “Trust in God; trust also in me.” The secret to be strong in heart is “trust in God.” Jesus said to his disciples, “Trust in God” indicating that God was fully aware of what’s going on and what He was doing. Nothing was out of his sight. This is the expression we see on the American currency all the time. “In God we trust.” This expression means that God is the Sovereign Ruler in our life. He is the object of our trust. We must not trust in a seemingly bad situation; situation always changes, so not reliable; don’t trust the situation. We must not trust in our feelings and emotions either– surely, they can change in one day. Only God is trustworthy and reliable. God knows our situation. God is in control. God has a good plan for us. When we trust in God, fear and anxiety disappear from our hearts and we enjoy deep peace. Instead of being anxious about what’s going on and what’s going to happen next, we come to relax and follow wherever God guides us, doing what we are supposed to do. 

 

On the contrary, when we do not trust in God, we try to pioneer our own life all by ourselves; we try hard to securehappiness with something tangible in our hands, and we try to make sure that we become successful in our career. We try to become our own sovereign rulers. As a result, there are a lot of anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, and our hearts know nothing about peace or rest. “Trust in God!” God knows where we are in His time plan, and God knows what He is doing for us. He is doing something good and important for you and for me. Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God.” 

 

Jesus also says, “Trust also in me.” Maybe, their understanding of God was still conceptual; maybe, the teaching, “Trust in God,” sounded somewhat theological to the disciples. But trusting in Jesus was not conceptual or theological to them, because they saw how Jesus had protected them and taken care of them. Jesus’ care and love was real to them, and it was obvious that Jesus would never leave them alone. So Jesus said to them, “Trust also in me,” meaning, “You know me and you know that I will not abandon you.” Based on their experience with Jesus, surely, they could trust in him. Do you know Jesus? Has he been good to you? Then, trust in Jesus! He will not abandon you; he will do great things for you. 

 

Second, “In my Father’s house are many rooms” (2-4).Look at verse 2. “2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.” Jesus understood their sentiment very well; he knew their sense of insecurity, so he tried to comfort them by telling them that they had already secured a huge mansion in the kingdom of heaven. They thought that they would be like a bunch of orphans in the world, with no place to go, settle and rest. But that’s not the case at all; instead, they were really rich with a mansion completely secured for them. What makes people feel really difficult and embarrassed is that they do not have a place to go after finishing their life journey. They leave this world without knowing where they are going – this makes them so fearful and troubled. But we, Jesus’ disciples are different; we know where we are going – our Father’s house, and what is waiting for us – a mansion. “I have a place to go.” Our Father’s house, which we are going back to is like an anchor for our souls. 

 

Actually, the Father’s house is the kingdom of God. But Jesus describes it as “my Father’s house.” In someone’s kingdom, you should be uptight, be very careful that you will not make any mistake. Then, what about in the kingdom of God? You should be really careful. But how do you feel and behave at your father’s house? Even in the church, we are careful in words and actions. But when we go our home, there we relax, putting on pajamas, stretching on the couch, and munching on potato chips. Instead of revealing the kingdom of God as an official place where they should be uptight, and be extremely careful not to make any mistake, he expresses it here as our family home, where we can freely relax and find peace and rest.  

 

What is our Father’s house like? It has many rooms. How many rooms? Really many rooms! In Revelation 21, we see the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven; it is one big structure, or building – 1,400 miles long, 1,400 miles wide, and 1,400 miles high. Its land is a little bigger than the half of the USA (3,536,274 square miles). If we put one floor every mile, then, it is already 1,400 story building; the total floor square footage is about 776 times larger than the size of the United States of America. It is about 47 times bigger than all the lands on earth combined. This will be the dwelling place for our Father, our Lord Jesus and all those who have loved God and served Him wholeheartedly, starting from Abel. There we will enjoy God for ever and ever. Each person will be given a large room, maybe, 1 mile long, 1 mile wide, and 1 mile high, and you can use your wildest sense of creativity about how you are going to decorate your room. You can plant a vineyard and an orchard for all kinds of fruit trees. You can put an Olympic size swimming pool and a private tennis court in your backyard. Our Father’s house is different from the best house in Beverly Hills. People struggle hard to buy bigger houses throughout their life time on earth. But even the best house of Beverly Hills cannot be compared to a restroom of your room in your Father’s house. Compared to the rooms of the Father’s house, all gorgeous mansions of the world are nothing but filthy rags, which must be thrown into a trash can. “Do not let your hearts be troubled... In my Father’s house are many rooms.”

 

Jesus says, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” If his Father’s house were not big, truly gorgeous and if it did not have many rooms, then Jesus would have told his disciples to go and buy a mansion for him. If it were not so, Jesus would have told his disciples to mobilize all his followers and attack the Roman Empire so that he would live in the Caesar’s palace. But because there were many rooms in his Father’s house, he did not need to tell them to do such a thing or bother people to make a house for him. Because his Father’s house was really gorgeous, all the mansions and palaces in the world were just okay. Instead, since he had his own gorgeous house, he slept wherever he felt comfortable: in the leper Simon’s house, in the house of Lazarus, in the field, or on a rock. It was not suffering, but like enjoying a somewhat romantic sleep over for a while like on a camping trip. He also ate whatever was available. He did not bother to pursue gourmet meals all the time. Whatever was offered, he enjoyed it freely. When he tasted Kimchi, he said, “Wow! Pretty shocking!” How happy we are that we have a place to go and rest, our Father’s house, and in our Father’shouse are many rooms! When we have this hope in our hearts, nothing in the world whether big or small can bother us too much. Even if we lose all things in the world, we have this consolation of our hearts that in our Father’s house are many rooms. Have you lost a lot? Do you experience pain and sorrow? Do not let your hearts be troubled, for in your Father’s house are many rooms.  

 

Jesus also says, "I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." You know, in a big hotel are many rooms. But when a true VIP such as the President of the USA comes to stay in that hotel, the manager first checks out the suite room to make sure that everything is in perfect condition. In our Father’s house are already many rooms. But Jesus regarded his disciples VVIPs. So, even though there were many rooms in his Father’s house, he still wanted to go there first and prepare a very special place for them. Jesus here described his departure as his business trip to the Father’s house for his disciples. So they did not need to be troubled in heart at all. Rather, they must be very grateful and yearn to go to their Father’s house ASAP. Not only so, once Jesus prepared a place for them in the Father's house, he would come back to them, and take them to be with him in the Father's house. So, nothing to worry about! This is our true hope!

 

To Jesus, we are VIPs of VIPs. Right now, he is preparing a welcoming party for us. Once his preparation is completed, he will come to the earth to take us back to the Father’s house. The time for our arrival in the Father’s house will be a very special day for all the hosts in the kingdom of God including holy angels, other servants of God who went there ahead of us, and all other creatures in heaven. On that day, Jesus will show us what he has prepared for each of us – our own room, and we will be so glad and happy. We will be given a very special place, specially prepared for us to enjoy eternity with Jesus and our Father. In this world, we may suffer to live as Jesus’ disciples. But our real reward is waiting for us. Jesus has become our reward. Let’s trust in God, and be strong as Jesus’ disciples.  

 

Look at verse 4. Let’s read this verse together:

 

4You know the way to the place where I am going.”

 

As the conclusion of his words of comfort for the disciples, Jesus said, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” This means that, if they knew the place where Jesus was going, the Father’s house, and the way how they could get there, then, they would not be troubled in heart at all. This shows us a profound secret to overcome our troubled heart and remain strong in serving God’s ministry continually. The secret is to know the place where Jesus was going, and the way how to get there. 

 

When you were young, when your parents told you that you would go to the Disneyland, you were overjoyed and shouted, “Hurray!” because you knew what a fun and fantastic place the Disneyland was – your heart was completely captured and you forgot about all other things. Likewise, when you know how fun and exciting and glorious it is to live in the Father’s house, you will not be troubled by anything in the world. It is big as we learned. It is surrounded by the wall whose thickness is about 200 feet, and it has 12 gates – 3 on each side, and each of the gate is made of one big pearl (a pearl of at least 200 feet diameter), and the wall was made of jasper, and the whole city, the New Jerusalem was made of pure gold, as pure as glass. And the 12 foundations of the city walls are decorated with 12 different kinds of precious stones  jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst. In the twentieth century, people discovered that in pure light, diamonds, rubies, and garnets whatever color they might have, turn out to be gray and black – so dull – these are called “Isotropic gemstones.” But these twelve stones, in pure light, whatever color they may begin with, turns out to be full rainbow color, so wonderful and beautiful – these are called “anisotropic gemstones.” This is the twentieth century’s discovery. The apostle John when he wrote the book of Revelation had no knowledge or idea about it. But God knew it and chose these twelve anisotropic gemstones for the New Jerusalem, so as God’s light shines on these gemstones, they will shine so wonderfully. Two things will not be there in the New Jerusalem: The temple because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple, and the sun or the moon, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is the lamp. And the river of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city, which was made of pure gold like transparent glass. On each side of the river stands the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nations and kings will bring their splendor into it. Nothing impure, no one who does what is shameful will ever enter it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. We can talk about this continually – the beauty and glory of living in the New Jerusalem, our Father’s house, and enjoying life together with angels, and with Jesus, and all his servants. 

 

Knowing the Father’s house means to have a vivid hope and vision for it – you think about it and dream about it and youare completely fascinated at it that nothing in the world seems so big or important to you any longer. Blessed are those who receive the kingdom of heaven like little children, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Such people do not love anything in this world. But when people do not have this vivid hope of the kingdom of God, their hearts are given to attractive looking things of this world – money, success, a happy family, and as a result, according to the fluctuating situation, their hearts also go through ups and downs.

 

But knowing the place itself is not all there is. We must know how to get there. Some people do not know the place, so their lives and the condition of their inner world change according to outward circumstances. Moreover, when they do not know the place where Jesus was going, the kingdom of God, they do not know where they are going; in their lives, there is no direction or purpose; they live to pay the bills and gratify what their flesh desires such as eating, drinking, sleeping, marrying, and buying and selling, until they perish. 

 

Some people know the place – the kingdom of God; they want to go there. But the problem is that they don’t know how to get there. They rely on theology and say, “I believe in Jesus.” Yet, they have no confidence of coming to the kingdom of God; so they struggle hard doing Christian things, being nice to others, doing some philanthropic activities; yet, still, they have no confidence about it, so they then, struggle hard to hypnotize themselves, saying, “I believe I am saved. I believe I am saved.” Their fear, their struggle to believe shows their lack of faith. What is faith? Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see. Such complete assurance, such complete confidence is called, “faith,” and when you have such faith, you don’t use the word, “I believe,” because, in your eyes, it is so obvious and natural that you don’t need to talk about it at all. No one says, “I believe that one plus one equals two.” We never talk about it. That’s what faith is about. People have such a vain struggle of believing in theology eventually because they do not let go of that one thing God asks them to sell. If they give away that one thing God is talking about, they will have the complete confidence in God’s salvation and eternal life in the Father’s house.

 

How can we get to the place where Jesus is? How did Jesus go to the Father's house? It was through his death on the cross. Jesus said to his disciples that where he was going, they could not follow then, but later, they would. At that time, the disciples could not follow Jesus, because they were not really ready to die with him, because they loved their own life in the world. But later, they would, because, by meeting the Risen Jesus and accepting his love for them, they were completely ready to die for Jesus; at that time, they indeed loved Jesus more than their life, and thereby, could follow Jesus to the end – they enjoyed such confidence in Jesus, and they were happy with him. The cross, the symbol of Christianity, is the way that leads us to the kingdom of heaven. The cross is not about having knowledge or offering a lip service, but about having a true Christian lifestyle, as Jesus says, “Whoever wants to come after me must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” When we walk on the way of the cross, it will lead us to the place where Jesus is. When we are on the way of the cross by denying our own desires and plans, and by dedicating ourselves to God’s purpose, we can enjoy such confidence of God’s love for us, and nothing will bother us too much. Jesus says, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”

 

Third, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (5-6).Look at verse 5.  So far, Jesus talked about his Father’s house that had many rooms in hope to comfort his disciples by planting the living hope in it. Jesus was really serious because he had only a few more hours to go. But after hearing such a comforting and beautiful message, Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” He was one of the apostles of Jesus. Yet, he did not know where his master was going; he didn't know his master's real purpose

 

How did Jesus respond? Look at verse 6. Let’s read this verse together:

 

6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

 

This is one of the most famous Bible verses and is Jesus’ answer to Thomas’ question about the way to the Father’s house. Jesus says, “I am the way.” Jesus is the way. This is such a glorious and bold proclamation. We all hear peoples’ cry, “Show me the way.” Many people think that money is the way, so they follow money; surely, it is a wrong way. Many people think that relationships are the way, so they pursue a romantic relationship – we all know that it is a wrong way, often very destructive; so, don’t go that way; it is not the way. Throughout history, all mankind has struggled, explored all kinds of possible ways to find the true way to live – money, fame, power, family and pleasures. But all of these ways have been found wrong. That’s why still people shout, “Where is the way? Show me the way!” It seems that there is no way in this life, and as a result, so many people are wandering in darkness, in deep sense of emptiness and meaninglessness. Now Jesus proclaims to all mankind, “I am the way!” Jesus is the way we have been looking for; Jesus is the way we must follow, not anything else. Jesus is the way we must live by. What will happen when we follow Jesus, when we live our life by him? Surely, we will be at the place where Jesus is, the Father’s house.

 

Jesus says, “I am the truth.” Jesus is the truth. The truth is what is unchangeable, what is fundamental, what is really true, or what is really real. What is really real? People say that they are from monkeys, and that they are the product of accidents; some people even say that they are from a big explosion; sothere is no purpose or meaning in their life, because they are simply the product of chains of accidents. So, based on this, their whole life purpose is to survive - the principle of the survival of the fittest. Their whole life is based on lies. What a pathetic life it is – life based on lies! Some people say that they were mosquitoes, and they will become cockroaches. Based on this, they struggle hard to be nice to each other, hoping that, they may be frogs than cockroaches in the next life. Their whole life is based on lies as well. All mankind has fundamental questions. Who am I? Or What am I? Where did I come from and where am I going? What shall I do and how must I live my life? The truth is the answers to all these fundamental questions. Now Jesus says, “I am the truth.” This statement means that he is the cause, origin and purpose of all things. He is the fundamental answer to all these questions mankind has. Because of him, we exist; because of him, we are what we are; because of him, the universe is sustained. He is the answer to all things that are there both in our own life, and in the universe. He is the answer to all the questions you have. He is the Alpha and the Omega of our life and of this world. He is the cause and the purpose of our existence. He is the real essence of your life, and my life. With him, we see everything clearly; with him, we know the truth. But without him, we are completely lost, without knowing who we are and what we are, and how to live our life and what to do with our life; and thereby, without him, we can never know where we came from and where we are going; without him, we can never know the way to the Father's house, and we can never get there. 

 

Jesus also says, “I am the life.” “Life,” zoe, eternal life, is the essence of the kingdom of God. Anyone that does not have eternal life cannot stay in the kingdom of God because as his life ends, he is gone while the kingdom of God lasts forever. Jesus says, “I am the life” showing that he is the source, origin, and giver of life. Only because Jesus gives eternal life to those whom he wants, they can live eternally in the kingdom of God. No one can come to the Father’s house and live eternally without receiving life from Jesus.

 

Jesus’ proclamation, “I am the way and the truth and the life” is the most bold and solemn proclamation that Jesus is all to all. With this proclamation, Jesus shows that he is the true essence and cause of our existence. He is the cause, reason, and purpose of everything that exists in the universe. Colossians 1 proclaims, "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Col 1:16-17) Because of him, through him and for him are all things in the universe, in the visible realm and in the invisible realm.  

 

As the conclusion, Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Without the way, no one comes to the Father. Without the truth, no one can come to the Father. Without the life, no one comes to the Father. Without Jesus, things just exist there for a while only to perish. Without Jesus, people are just groping around, wandering here and there without knowing who they are, what to do and where they are going, and they are lost. Without Jesus, people are nothing but the dust of the ground that exists only for a while by the means of three meals a day and then perishes eternally. Without Jesus, there is no content in man’s life, and no direction and no purpose in man’s life, and they only exist for a while. But with Jesus, we have everything – we know the way, we know the truth, and we have life. What else do you need?

 

One Word: Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life

 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

posted Mar 24, 2019, 3:04 PM by Site Administrator

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

 

John 13:18-38

Key Verse 13:34

 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

 

          First, “So that when it does happen, you will believe” (18-30). Look at verse 18. “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.’” Judas’ betrayal was a very painful thing. Jesus had loved him and worked together with him for the past three years. But then, Judas was going to sell him for 30 shekels of silver! That was really shocking. But Jesus did not see it as a failure, but as the fulfillment of the Scriptures. King David experienced such a betrayal from his trusted associates, and it was so painful that he talked about it in his Psalm. When Jesus saw that one of his trusted associates, Judas was going to betray him, he simply understood that the same thing that had happened to David was going to happen to him just as it was written in the Scriptures.

 

Jesus said to the disciples, “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.” It was an embarrassing moment that one of his twelve apostles would betray him. But at this most delicate moment, Jesus was more concerned about his disciples than his own pain. His heart’s desire was that despite such seemingly painful events – Judah’s betrayal and his painful death – his disciples might not be shaken, but be able to see all things from God’s point of view, as the fulfillment of God’s words, so that they might keep their faith in him and live according to his will.

 

          Many people express their love and faith in God when things go very well, or when they see God’s helping hands, but doubt and even complain when things do not go as they expected. But remember that life comes with many challenging and even difficult moments. Sometimes, we experience painful failures. At that time, how should we respond? Jesus says, “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.” While we go through some challenging and difficult moments in our life, Jesus hopes that we will believe in him, that we will have absolute trust in him despite seemingly difficult outlooks. At the last supper, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as a wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.” (Lk 22:31,32)

 

Look at verse 20. Let’s read this verse together:

 

20I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.

 

          What Jesus says is a plain truth. God sends his servants to the world, and when you accept them, honor them, love them and obey them, you show your honor, love, respect and love to the one who sent them, God. By the way, why, at this moment, did Jesus talk about this? Judas thought that he was just betraying a human, named Jesus, for money; actually, betraying one’s trust and love is a terrible thing, but still, Judas was going to betray Jesus, because he loved money; he was willing to bear such blame for what he really loved, money. He never thought that he was going to reject God; he never thought that he would not believe in God any longer; instead, he would simply attend other synagogue worship service or even he would move to Jerusalem and attend the temple worship service. But now Jesus showed him that actually betraying him meant to reject the one who sent him, God. By this Jesus showed him what a terrible sin he was going to commit – he was not rejecting a man, but God. It was Jesus’ last warning for Judas Iscariot.

 

          After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” So far, Jesus remained strong. But now we see Jesus is troubled in his spirit. Jesus is far from being an iron man who cannot feel any pain or does not know weaknesses. Here, Jesus’ heart is broken with the pain of being betrayed by his closest friend. His heart was broken. His heart of flesh was torn and bled and his guts were wrenched inside of him. And yet, how meek he remained. Jesus was not angry or consumed with the fire of vengeance. He was genuinely broken and sad. His inner pain was beyond our description.

 

          Now the disciples were at a total shock. So far, Jesus had dropped several bombs, so to speak, upon the disciples by revealing the shocking truth very plainly. Once he told that the most righteous looking Pharisee, Nicodemus, would not enter the kingdom of God unless he was born again. Once he said that the Son of God would be handed over to the Gentiles, would suffer and be killed and rise again on the third day. But this bomb “one of you is going to betray me,” completely caught them by surprise. They were speechless and at a loss. The fact that this news was so shocking to them and that they could not tell whom Jesus was talking about--even after Jesus clearly gave them the clue of bread dipped in the bowl-- reveals to us how truly and completely Judas disguised himself as Jesus’ sheep. When John asked him of who would betray him, Jesus said, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.

 

          Look at verse 27. “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly.” “Satan entered into him.” This is a very strange expression. Does this mean that as Judas took the bread, he lost himself, and was possessed by Satan? Definitely not! This expression describes how Judas received Jesus’ last warning and challenge. When Jesus exposed everything, by dipping the piece of bread and giving it to him, Judas could see that he had known everything. It was the time when Judas must have the fear of Jesus and repent. It was the time when he had to collapse at Jesus’ feet, confess his sins and repent, saying, “I am sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” It was the time when he had to accept Jesus’ love for him. But he did not respond in that way. Verse 30 says that as soon Judas took the bread, he went out. As soon as he took the bread, he went out. There was no hint of hesitation at all. And his action was very repulsive showing that he was angrily determined to sell Jesus whatsoever. He hardened his heart, thinking, “Why, if you knew this, did you have to expose this openly? Why should you embarrass me this way? If this is the way you treat me, I know what to do.” In this way, he gave into his anger, and was completely determined to do what his anger desired, to sell Jesus and see him destroyed – that’s what Satan really wanted to see; in this way, he became Satan’s loyal instrument who would serve Satan’s will with all his might. This was described as, “Satan entered into him.”

 

          These days, we see so many people follow Judas’ footsteps, offering themselves to Satan as his loyal instruments. We don’t need to talk about laid off-employees’ shooting rampage. Two thousand years ago, Satan worked hard on Judas based on his love of money, and finally persuaded him completely. Today, Satan does not take a break. Still he roams around to find an easy prey. Don’t give into your bitterness; don’t give into the sense of vengeance or the sense of injustice. Instead, give your heart to God alone and serve Him only. Let’s not harden our hearts. When we are rebuked, or challenged to repent, let’s soften our hearts, and in fear of God, accept God’s love for us.

 

          Verse 28 through 30 describes the response of the rest 11 apostles. No one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charged of money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. They had formed such a bond of love and comradeship that it was even impossible to imagine that one of them would betray Jesus. Thus, Judas left from the presence of Jesus and his disciples. And it was dark. A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light. Judas would stumble, never to rise.

 

Second, “Now is the Son of Man glorified” (31-33). Look at verses 31 and 32. Let’s read these verses together:

 

When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.”

 

          It was the most painful moment when his own beloved disciple left to sell him for money; now through his betrayal, everything was set for him to die on the cross. But Jesus did not dwell in sorrows and pains; instead, in that most painful moment, he saw the glory of God that would be revealed. And at the thought of revealing the glory of God, Jesus was now strengthened and encouraged to take up his cross to the end. The word, “glory” means to be revealed. In nature, Jesus is God the Almighty, the Word who was with God in the beginning, but when he came to the world, he didn’t live as God, but as a human, the Son of Man. In nature, he even though he was equal with God, he did not consider himself equal with God; instead, he took the form of a servant to God the Father, and obeyed his will even to the point of death. When people realize this, when people see how much Jesus humbled himself and obeyed God, they are all amazed at his perfect humility and obedience to God his Father. Who can show such perfection in humility? Only the Almighty God! Indeed, at the cross, Jesus’ glory as the Son of God, the beauty of the Word who was with God in the beginning, was revealed. “Now is the Son of Man glorified.”

 

          We are children of God – sons and daughters of God. Yet, we live as humans in this world. How can we reveal our glory as children of God? Some people may think that they can do it by calling down fire from heaven and burning some people. But Jesus’ example shows us that when our obedience to God’s will is complete, when we submit ourselves to God completely despite all obstacles and difficulties, there, people truly see that we are no ordinary people, but sons and daughters of God; there, we are revealed as children of God. We watched the movie, “The Insanity of God.” We were very touched by Dmitri’s story. We were very touched when the son said to his father who was like a corpse due to the torture, “I am proud of you.” Facing the death on the cross, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” Let’s pray that we may reveal God’s glory through our complete obedience.

 

Jesus also says, “And God is glorified in him.” When Jesus obeyed God’s command and died on the cross, God’s redemption plan was completed, and we can see that everything just happened according to God’s plan and purpose. Jesus’ death on the cross was indeed God’s victory. God was in perfect control. At the same time, God’s perfect love for the fallen mankind was revealed – God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son to die on the cross so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. When Jesus was glorified through his obedience even to death on the cross, God was glorified in his life. Here we can learn from Jesus what truly glorifies God. It is our obedience to His will. Many young Christians believe that glorifying God means doing well at school, at work, or winning in a competition. It may be true to some point. But Jesus’ words teach us that glorifying God means surrendering ourselves to the will of God and taking up our cross to fulfill God’s will.

 

          Look at verse 33. “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.” Now Jesus called his disciples “children.” After Judas left, the batch of the remaining disciples became truly “clean” (John 13:10). They were full of weaknesses, but they had recognized Jesus’ voice and turned to him; they were chosen people, and now children of God. The King James Version says, “Little children.” Therefore, in Jesus’ eyes, the disciples were little children. As little children love their parents, they loved Jesus. Just like little children, they were self-centered and shortsighted too. Their way of thinking was still immature and often illogical, spiritually speaking. Yet, they loved Jesus as genuinely as little children love their parents and long to spend time with them. Right now, they could not follow Jesus, because they could not die on the cross together with Jesus yet; they needed to be changed into true men of God.

 

          Third, “A new command I give you: Love one another” (34-38). Look at verses 34 and 35. Let us read these verses together.

 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

 

          Now as Jesus was leaving them, he issued this one command for them. That was to love one another, as Jesus had loved them. This was a command and a “must.” It is not an option or suggestion. They must love one another. It is their work and their mission among themselves as they served God’s work on earth. Here, Jesus called this “a new command.” In the Old Testament, there were 613 laws – do this, don’t do that, do this, and don’t do that. Jesus did not add one more commandment. Instead, he gave them, “a new command,” which his disciples must obey. As the Father issued 613 laws for the Israelites to keep, now Jesus issued one command for his disciples to keep. So it was a new command, not the extension of or addition to the old commands. Did this new command nullify the old commandments, such as the Ten commandments or other laws? No! Instead, this new command, “Love one another” is exactly what the Old Commandments talk about. The Old Testament, even the Ten Commandments, could be summarized in one word, “love” as Jesus said in Mark 12:30 and 31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” All these commandments teach us that we must love God and love our neighbors.

 

          What does it mean, “Love one another”? To whom does “one another” refer? Here, Jesus is referring to the disciples, especially, the Eleven. They are to love one another, meaning each of the eleven should love the other 10. Here, Jesus is not talking about loving strangers. The eleven were to love one another so that all men, the entire world may know that they are Jesus’ disciples. Notice here that the love Jesus was talking about is not a humanistic love that the world talks about. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus’ command is very specific. He commanded his disciples to love one another as he had loved them. That is why Judas Iscariot could not be included here, because he did not know the love of Jesus. He did not acknowledge Jesus’ love. He refused to accept Jesus’ love because that was not what he wanted. So there was no way for Judas to practice the love of Jesus to others.

 

          Only those who know and experience Jesus’ love can obey this command. That is why this command to love one another is for the community of committed believers, namely, disciples, who know the love of Jesus poured out upon them. How has Jesus loved us? First of all, while we were still sinners, while we didn’t have any interest in him, he died on the cross for us so that we might have a new life, eternal life. While we were still wayward, while we were still worldly, pursuing worthless things of this world blindly, Jesus loved us and followed us; in love, he didn’t let us go astray completely; instead, he intervened into our lives and guided us so that we may be really sober about our life and the world; he wrestled with us to break us down. He sent his servants to teach us his word and show us his love and his way. He embraced us while we were still ugly, smelly and sinful, and accepted us as his own. Since then, he has been washing our smelly feet continually, bearing our weaknesses, character flaws, and sin problems. That’s why we are here today. When we look back what he has done for us, and how he has loved us despite our smelly and ugly sins, we are only amazed in thanks. Now Jesus wants us to love our brothers and sisters in Jesus in the same way – “as he has loved us.”

 

          Again, “Love one another” is not a suggestion or opinion, but a command. It means that love he talks about is not some emotional feelings, but something that requires our efforts, struggles and obedience; simply, it is different from love the world talks about. They say, “I fall in love with you at a first sight.” But it is not love but their wholehearted struggle to gratify their own desires – often, it is very destructive. Love Jesus talks about is godly love, and it is very practical and sacrificial. The one we have to love is most likely not lovely in words and actions. He may have terrible character flaws, very irksome, maybe, too hot tempered. Or that person may be too proud. Maybe, that person does not do his basic duties such as cleaning the room or taking care of his smelly socks in the common life. Or even that person gives you hard time, making you depressed and sorrowful or even angry. How can we love that person? It requires real efforts and struggles of denying ourselves and practically doing something for that person. It is not natural for us to love others when we are so selfish and self-centered. But amazingly, when we struggle to love each other, God helps.

 

          There was someone I could not love. He was my senior and I had to obey him and love him. But he was too different from me and gave me really hard time. I died many times and experienced resurrection many times with the word of God. Then, one day, when I reached my limit, I went to God in prayer, and said, “Lord, I am dying. Help me.” Then, God showed me that if I loved him, everything would be okay. So, I said to God, “I know. But how can I love him when he is not lovely and he is so different.” In my eyes, it was impossible for me to love him. Then, suddenly, as I was praying, a vision started in my mind like a movie. God showed me how I could love him. When he was about to serve the message, then I would go to him and fix his tie, comforting him and showing myself to stand on his side. Or sometimes, as he was going to serve the message, I would go to him, and checking out his tie, I would take off my tie, and put it on him, saying, “Mine looks brighter. Take this.” When I found any good restaurant, I would invite him there and eat together. When he was going to a mission trip, early morning I would visit his house and take him to LA Airport. When he was coming back, I would go to LA airport and pick him up, carrying his baggage, and saying, “How was your trip?” What God showed me about how to love him was very practical, and amazingly, as the vision was going on in my mind, I sensed that love was growing in me. Then, in my vision, I invited him to my house for dinner, and while dinner was going on, I brought in a basin with water in it. Coming to him, I knelt down and tried to wash his feet. Then, in my vision, he was surprised, and embarrassed, and said to me, “No, I will wash your feet.” But I said to him, “Please, this time, let me wash your feet.” I pleaded with him so earnestly that he allowed me to wash his feet. Then, as I was washing his feet, rubbing them gently and sprinkling water on them, love for him welled up in my heart. I said to him, “I am sorry for not coworking with you well. Please forgive me.” While I was saying so, I that was in the vision was crying. Then, he said to me, “No, it was my fault. Please forgive me.” And he also was crying. While this vision was going on, I was also crying. While I was praying, I realized that I really loved him. Amazingly, love was in me, in my heart, and it was real, almost touchable. Before, I thought that love was conceptual, an abstract term. But no! It was not conceptual but real. I could say to the world that there was love in my heart, and it was for him. When love was born in my heart, everything changed. Suddenly, he looked so noble, so beautiful and lovely, a great man of God who had committed himself fully to God and served God’s mission losing everything in the world – such a noble man of God. I could see that I was so blessed to have this privilege of having life together with him. Then, a desire for him to be honored and respected and loved filled my heart. When he went to other country, people would flock to the airport to see him and hear his words. As he served the message, all people would listen to him carefully. He had had a kind of political mindset like the apostles who wanted to be the top disciple and become the prime minister in the messianic kingdom. I disliked that kind of political mindset. But now, I really hoped that whatever he had desired, might be granted, and I could pray for that. I want him to be exalted so that he can be happy. My heart’s desire was to make him happy. I happily called him “my father.” Later, when I shared this experience with Mother Barry, immediately she said, “That is the fruit of the Spirit.” Then, I understood that the expression, “fruit” is really proper. The fruit of love was born.

 

          Jesus’ command for us is: Love one another, as I have loved you. Now we have to love one another. Then, how? By washing one another’s feet! By bearing one another’s weaknesses and character flaws. When we strive to take care of other’s weaknesses in that way, love will be born in us, and we will be really happy. When love is there in us, no character flaws or weaknesses of our brothers and sisters will bother us any longer. Instead, all of our brothers and sisters will look so beautiful, noble and glorious, whose lives and hearts are fully dedicated to God. And we will be glad to know them and have this chance to enjoy life together with them. We will know that we are really blessed and that God’s grace is abundant in our lives.

 

          Look at verse 35 one more time. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” When the disciples deeply acknowledge Jesus’ love upon them and thus deeply love one another as Jesus has loved them, all men will know that they are Jesus’ disciples. In other words, all men will know that their love came from Jesus, their master, and that they are simply copying Jesus’ love as his disciples. They will be distinguished from all others in the world because of this bond of love among them. This kind of bond of love is not found in the world at all, but only in the community of the disciples of Jesus, whose hearts and lives are completely dedicated to him. Many people hope that their home may be the place of love where they can find rest; but often, instead of rest and happiness, wars go on – between husband and wife, between parents and children, and among children – so they don’t want to come home. Schools are the place where the principle of the survival of the fittest rules – there is tension, jealousy and competition. Then, when these weary and burdened people come to church and see the bond of love among the disciples, they are very impressed and touched; they can open their hearts to Jesus Christ. Here, we see that love among the disciples is one of the main forces of world evangelism – a key to successful disciple making ministry. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

 

          Look at verse 36. Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter was so disturbed by Jesus’ words that where he was going, they could not follow. Jesus assured him that even though they could not follow him then, they would follow him later. At this, Peter was hurt; it seemed that Jesus was not recognizing his loyalty. So, Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” Peter really wanted to follow Jesus. And for certain, he thought he was ready to die for Jesus. But Jesus didn’t accept his confession of love based on his own self-confidence. Such self-confidence will be broken to pieces in the spiritual realm. In less than a few hours, even before the night passed by, Peter would disown Jesus three times so as to secure his own life. But Jesus’ love for him would be the same, and Peter would come to really know his love for him.

 

One Word: Jesus Commands Us: Love One Another As I Have Loved You

 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

posted Mar 18, 2019, 8:45 PM by Site Administrator

THE FULL EXTENT OF HIS LOVE

 

John 13:1-17

Key Verse 13:14

 

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

 

John chapters 13-16 are called the upper room dialogues.Now Jesus had only a few hours before his arrest and death. During these last hours of his life, Jesus gave his disciples most important and serious instructions, showing them the meaning of his suffering, death, and resurrection, and what they should do and how they should live as his disciples. With these instructions, Jesus prepared his disciples so that, even when he was not with them physically any longer, they would still function as his disciples doing what God wanted them to do. Now Jesus is not present in our life physically - the very situation Jesus was anticipating when he gave these instructions to his apostles. So, through the upper room dialogue, we can see what Jesus wants us to do and how we must live our life as his disciples. Let's pray and accept his instructions personally.

 

First, The full extent of his love (1-8). Look at verse 1. It was just before the Passover. It was the Passover night when the Jews killed the lambs in preparation for the Passover meal. During this night, Jesus and his twelve disciples were all seated together in an upper room ready to eat the Passover meal. In verses 1 and 3, we see the expression, Jesus knew that…repeated. Verse 1 reads: Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. This means that Jesus knew what’s going to happen to him and what’s the meaning of it; he came into the world to serve God’s mission through his death on the cross, and after completing his mission, he would go back to his Father. Verse 3 also reads: Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God. Here, the expression, Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, shows that Jesus was not a victim to Judas Iscariot’s betrayal; instead, knowing all things – what would happen, and how God’s salvation work would be fulfilled – Jesus arranged all things and proceeded things one by one to fulfill God’s will. He was in full control. The expression, Jesus knew that he had come from God, shows that now he fully understood who he was, why he was there – he was God himself who came into the world in a human form to fulfill God’s salvation purpose.  

 

Now Jesus knew that he had only a few hours left in this world. He already felt the heavy burden of dying a painful death. Now with these few remaining hours in this world, what did Jesus do? Verse 1 says, Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. Jesus chose to use the last few hours of his life to show his love to his own. This shows that to Jesus, his own were the most precious treasures in the world. He valued them most highly. Who were his own? Of course, his twelve apostles! They were the very ones who remained in him to the end. While all others - thousands, maybe, several ten or even hundred thousand people - just came to his Bible studies, enjoyed his grace, but eventually left him, these apostles stayed together with him to the end. While all those people who came to Jesus’ Bible studies or who heard his messages were called the crowd or those who are outside, the apostles who had made their true commitment to Jesus were called his own. They were the fruit of his ministry in this world. Jesus treasured them so greatly that when he had only a few hours left in this world, he chose to use those hours for them, to have fellowship with them - that was the expression of his love for them - he loved them to the end. To Jesus, they were most precious; they were his treasured possession who loved him with all their hearts.

 

How did the last supper go? Look at verses 4 and 5. Let’s read these verses together:

 

4So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

While the twelve apostles were happy and busy eating, Jesus got up, took off his outer clothes, and wrapped a towel around his waist. He then poured water into a basin and amazingly began to wash his disciples’ feet. As Jesus came to the Apostle John, not saying a word, he knelt down, grabbed his feet, poured water on them, and gently rubbed his feet. At this, the whole room was silent and all were stunned at the sight as they watched their master take such a lowly position. They could not understand what he was doing. They were so amazed. As he was rubbing the Apostle John’s feet, John became speechless, and Jesus continued to pour gently the water on his feet. He kept doing this until his feet were cleansed from all dirt and filth, and then he dried them with the towel. John didn’t understand what Jesus was doing, but nonetheless, he felt so good – he could sense his master’s love for him; he was so touched – it was the full extent of his love. After he was finished, Jesus got up and then came to Matthew, knelt down, and with the same kind of touch, washed his feet also. Then afterwards he came to Philip, James, and so on. As Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, their hearts were greatly touched; no one had ever touched their hearts in the way Jesus did. As Jesus washed their feet, suddenly a wave of love and warmth filled their hearts – it was a heavenly moment as Jesus’ love became so real to them. 

 

Jesus washed his disciples’ feet! This is remarkable! The Apostle John was so touched at this scene that he described it in such a precise detail and called this event the full extent of his love. What Jesus did here is an expression of the full extent of his love. On a person’s body, feet are the smelliest and yuckiest part. Nobody wants to touch such smelly and dirty feet. Feet are disgusting and even after touching your own feet, you run to the tap water and wash your hands thoroughly with soap. People feel so burdensome about them. Also, in those days, washing feet was a lowly slave’s job. But Jesus, the Master of the universe, loved his disciples so much that he was willing to get down on His knees, and wash his disciples’ dirty and disgusting feet, all twelve of them, one by one. Through this, the apostle John saw how much Jesus loved them, how much he loved his own. Jesus went this much in love for his disciples, taking even the form of a lowly slave for them – it was the full extent of his love for his own.

 

What kind of person was John? Jesus gave him a nickname, “Boanerge” which meant, “son of thunder,” showing that he was a hot tempered and emotional person. When a Samarian village people did not welcome Jesus, John was so angry that he asked Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven and burn them?” He was that kind of person – full of anger, violence and hot temper. But at the same time, when we think about how he described Jesus’ action in today’s passage – the full extent of his love, we can see that he was a person who received love very well; when someone showed him some favor, he was the one who appreciated it deeply; he received Jesus’ love very well. When Jesus showed him an action of love, he was very touched, appreciating it deeply. Who could imagine that this hot tempered person who used to behave like a thunder had such great point, enjoying and responding to Jesus’ love so well. The love relationship between Jesus and John was very mutual. And because he responded to Jesus’ love and enjoyed it very well, eventually his character was beautified and his inner person became mature that he became a man of love, an apostle of love.

 

But Judas Iscariot was different. Even though Jesus washed his feet also, nothing happened to him. Maybe, at first, he was shocked when Jesus washed his feet, but instead of opening his heart toward Jesus and accepting his love for him, he struggled hard to not respond. Why did he do so? It’s because he wanted to hold onto his own desire for money; he wanted to secure money, so he rejected Jesus’ love for him. As a result, he remained unclean, even though Jesus washed his feet. When he refused to open his heart to Jesus this way, he was inviting Satan into his heart, and he became an instrument of Satan. It’s unbelievable that an apostle of Christ became an instrument of Satan, but that’s what happened. When Jesus’ love comes to us, we must respond to it with an open heart. Let his love flow into your heart and change you freely as God desires. Then, his love will purify you, making you clean. His love will establish as beautiful children of God.

 

What happened when Jesus came to Simon Peter? Look at verses 6 through 8. Peter could not believe what he was about to see. In his eyes, Jesus was such a glorious man of God, a highly respected and honored Rabbi, and his beloved master who deserved honor and praise. Jesus was his Lord and King and no way should he kneel down to wash his dirty and stinky feet. Sowhen Jesus came to him to wash his feet, he said to Jesus, Lord, are you going to wash my feet? Jesus said to Peter, You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand. But Peter responded, saying, No, you shall never wash my feet. In respect and honor of Jesus, Peter could not see Jesus doing such a lowly job for him. So, he refused to stick out his feet. His love for Jesus was very genuine, but he didn’t understand Jesus’ love for him yet. 

 

Then, Jesus responded, Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. Now Jesus here explains the spiritual meaning of washing his disciples’ feet. It meant Jesus washing away his disciples’ sins, and making them clean. Jesus loved them as his own – they were the ones who were completely committed to him; they were the fruit of his life here on earth; he treasured them in his heart and loved them so much. How then does Jesus express his love for his own? By touching their most smelly parts and making them clean and fragrant! This is the expression of Jesus' love for his own. People casually say, Jesus loves me.By the way, what does it mean? What is the expression of his love for them? He loves them so much that he wants to remove all filth, dirtiness from them and make them clean, fragrant, and wholesome. He loves them so much that he is willing to touch and deal with their smelly parts, smelly sin problems. Jesus loves us so much, so he never wants us to live with shame, dirtiness and uncleanness; so he wants to wash away our sins.

 

How should we respond to Jesus’ love for us? We must accept his love for us, his burning desire to make us clean, by sticking out our smelly sin problem to him, by confessing our sins and repenting. Even though we are dedicated to God fully, it does not mean that we are perfect; we have our own unique weakness and sin problems; sometimes, the desire for success or desire for flesh rises in our hearts and we are so bombarded. Sometimes, we are simply driven by our own sinful nature that we do some crazy or even shameful things only to regret terribly. Jesus knows this very well, and in love, he wants to cleanse us from our sins and character-flaws so that we may become clean, fragrant and beautiful in our words and actions. This is Jesus expression of love for us, and we must accept it. We must stick out our smelly sins to him, confessing and repenting. Some people feel ashamed to talk about their shameful sins or weak points; some people do not want to talk about it, but want to entertain their sinful desires; but we must remember that, when the top disciple Peter refused to stick out his smelly feet to Jesus, even out of his respect for him, he still would have no part with Jesus. Peter was the top disciple; he had served God's work a lot; he had attended worship service all the time. But unless he let Jesus wash his smelly feet, he would have no part with Jesus, he would have no relationship with Jesus, he would have no life together with Jesus. 

Second, Full bath and foot-washing (9-11). Look at verse 9. Then, Lord Simon Peter replied, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well! Here, Then, Lord, meant, If there was such a profound meaning and reason in this, or If that's the case,... Simon was willing to do anything and everything if he could have life together with Jesus; if anything would help him develop better relationship with Jesus, he would do it. Simon’s response shows us that he really loved Jesus and wanted to have intimate fellowship with him; he wanted to have life together with Jesus. So, he asked Jesus to give him a full bath. Not just my feet, but my hands and head as well! Simon Peter made so many mistakes in his Christian life; he denied Jesus three times, gave up his mission, and Satan used him; but despite all these, he loved Jesus. Peter’s love for Jesus was hot and real. It was genuine. That’s why in all circumstances, despite all his terrible failures and mistakes, still he could say to Jesus, You know that I love you. Jesus knew Peter’s heart very well too. Based on this love relationship, Jesus helped him continually and finally Simon grew up to be a spiritual giant.

 

What was Jesus’ response? Look at verse 10. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Jesus answered, A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.

 

Here, we see that there are two kinds of cleansing. One is a full bath, and the other is foot washing. Simon Peter had already taken the full bath. There was no need for Jesus to give him a full bath again. The full bath means cleansing of one’s whole life; it refers to complete turning to God, which is called, conversion. When Jesus came to Peter while he was fishing and living his own life for himself, he said to him, Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men. Peter accepted Jesus’ calling and left everything behind; he had a 180 degreeturning from his life of catching fish to the life of catching men, from the self-seeking life to the life of seeking God. This was the turning point in Peter’s life. Even though Peter was a Jew, had the Bible, and attended worship service all his life, it wasn’t until he turned his life from living for himself to living for God that he took the full bath and became clean. Simply, it can mean the true meaning of baptism with the water – actually, baptism is a full bath; with the baptism, your old self that has lived for yourself dies in the water, and a new self that lives for God comes to appear; so, with the baptism, it is no longer you that lives in you, but Christ Jesus. Jesus said to the twelve, You are clean.  

 

Jesus also said, But not every one of you referring to Judas Iscariot. Judas had served God’s work together with Jesus and the eleven disciples for three and a half years. He heard Jesus’ words, had many worship services and occupied a very important position in Jesus' ministry - he was the treasurer. Outwardly, it seemed that he was living for God, but in the true sense, despite his participation in Jesus’ ministry, he was not living for God, but for his own purpose – he was pursuing money, not God. Outwardly, it seemed that he took a full bath; of course, he received the baptism, most likely from Jesus, but when his heart was not turned toward God, such a ceremony of receiving the baptism with water could not cleanse him. Now at the last supper, Jesus even washed his feet, the symbolic action of taking away his sins; but when he did not repent, when he did not accept Jesus’ love for him, when he held onto his own desire for money continually, he remained unclean. This is really shocking. I saw one brother who said that he received the baptism from a well known servant of God – he took great pride in it; but his life was not turned toward God, and thereby, he still remained unclean. I saw another person who took great pride that he received a counseling service from a great man of God, but again, he too did not turn to God, but lived for himself, even though he went to church – thus, he remained unclean. People need to be sincere before God; God is not so concerned about what kind of ceremony they do, but about their hearts – God wants people to repent and turn to him and live for him. We must be sincere before God – he is a Person, not a thing or a certain principle. The apostle John writes: We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, I know him, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1Jn 2:3-6) Judas remained unclean even though Jesus washed his feet. Despite his life together with Jesus for three years, Judas could not enter this love relationship with Jesus as long as he was unwilling to let go of his secret desire for money. Today, accept Jesus’ love for you and turn to God really.

 

Jesus says, A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet. Even though the 11 apostles had taken a full bath, they still needed to wash their feet. In those days, they used to wear sandals, or even barefooted. The streets were unpaved. As they walked on the unpaved streets with sandals, their feet got dirty quickly and they needed to wash them every day. In the same way, even after conversion to Jesus Christ, we still get dirty with sin and thereby, need to be forgiven and cleansed of it. Let’s say, you finally accept Jesus Christ and turn to him, with a heart’s determination that you will live for God alone; you say, Okay, let’s go and do God’s work. And you boldly go out to the campus and struggle to do God’s work. Then, the world attacks you, delivering its messages to you continually to corrupt you. As soon as you go out, you see fancy cars passing by, and you say, Wow! Look at that! Porshe! Bentz! Or you see fancy cell phones – Iphone X! Galaxy 10! You just want to have them, and in this way, the desire for things of this world tries to creep into your heart. At school, you are tempted about relationships or pleasure-seeking life or success in the world. Indeed, sin is everywhere, at work, at school, on the streets, and even at home. Indeed, as the Bible says, we are surrounded by enemies who try to corrupt us. Then, when you come back to the church at night, you are so confused and bombarded with the worldly desires and fleshly desires; simply, in the morning you were clean, but now your feet are unclean. At that time, we come to Jesus and talk to him, confessing our sins and asking him for his help, then, Jesus is right there to help us, right there to cleanse us of our sins and remove all filth from our hearts and make us clean, innocent and healthy again. Then, the next day, we can go out and do God’s work again with a refreshed heart. The apostle John later wrote: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1Jn 2:15-17) Again, we must accept the love of Jesus each and every day, by letting him wash our smelly feet and take away all filth and dirtiness from our hearts and life, then, we can recognize that God’s love for us is real, and that we are in him and he in us – at that time, our joy is complete and we are happy with God. Jesus says, Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. He also says, A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.  

 

Third, Wash one another’s feet (12-17). Look at verses 12 through 15. After having finished washing their feet, Jesus put on his clothes and returned to his place and said, Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

 

Now Jesus explains the practical reason why he washed his disciples’ feet. In short, he set an example so that his disciples might do the same thing. As the disciples lived together, all of their weak points and character flaws were exposed. Matthew, the former tax collector’s selfishness must have been terrifying to others. Maybe, Judas the Zealot, always caused conflicts with others because of his nationalist’s view. Maybe, some of them put their smelly socks on the beds. Mostly, they were so political and worldly that they were competing with each other to be the prime minister in Jesus’ kingdom. Even while Jesus was heavily burdened about his impending death on the cross and shared with them about it, they were just discussing about who was the greatest among them, to see who would be the prime minister. Jesus could have been mad at their worldliness and childishness. But instead, he had been bearing their weaknesses, character flaws and even sin problems. Jesus had borne their childishness until then. Because of that, they had a chance to grow up as spiritual leaders overcoming their weaknesses and sin problems. That’s how Jesus had washed his disciples’ feet. Now, by demonstration at the last supper, he showed them that they too must do the same thing, washing one another’s feet. Now Jesus was going back to his Father leaving them behind. His utmost concern was that, even when was with them physically any longer, they would still function as his disciples, advancing God's kingdom powerfully in one mind and heart. Jesus never wanted them to fight with each other, blaming each other all the way, and then, be divided and destroyed. How would they be able to do so? It would be possible only when they formed unity of love among themselves by washing one another's feet, by bearing one another's weaknesses and faults. Washing one another's feet was the first topic Jesus issued in his upper room dialogue - maybe, the most important instruction for his disciples. Just like a mother who is leaving her children, with such earnestness Jesus gave them this instruction - wash one another's feet! This is the very instruction Jesus gives us today - wash one another's feet! Is Jesus your Master? Is Jesus your Teacher? If you call Jesus, Teacher, or Master, this is what Jesus teaches you today - wash one another's feet!

 

As a conclusion, Jesus says, Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. You will be blessed if you do them. Many people are touched by Jesus' love on this passage, saying, Wow! This passage is beautiful! The full extent of his love for the disciples! Some people memorize John 13. But it does not mean anything, unless we really do what Jesus asks us to do - wash one another's feet. We will be blessed if we do them. The word blessed means happy. KJV translates it, saying, Happy are ye, if ye do them. We become happy when we obey Jesus’ instructions and love each other by bearing one another’s smelly parts; at that time, church life, mission life, fellowship with each other in the church is heavenly, and we are overjoyed. But if we don’t do these things, then, instead of happiness, we will be angry, hurting and being hurt; Angry are ye, if ye don’t do them. If we don’t wash one another’s feet, there will be strife, anger, bitterness, and sorrow; many people will be wounded – then, Christian life becomes so painful and sorrowful, and such a divided kingdom cannot stand. But, Jesus says, Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. As Jesus disciples, we can truly enjoy a blessed life together if we wash one another’s feet, and in one mind and heart, in a complete unity, we can advance God’s kingdom powerfully.

 

One Word: Wash One Another’s Feet

Sunday, March 10, 2019

posted Mar 10, 2019, 7:35 PM by Site Administrator

WE WILL SERVE THE LORD

 

Joshua 22:1-24:33

Key Verse 24:15

 

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

 

First, Be very careful to keep the commandment(22:1-34). In chapter 22, we see Joshua sending the Trans-Jordan tribes back home. He said to them, You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your brothers but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. Now that the Lord your God has given your brothers rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. They were the very ones who fought the battle ahead of others all the time. Now they had completed their mission successfully and won the victory. How satisfied they were! Now, at the commendation of the General Joshua, how happy they were! Their commander-in-chief acknowledged their loyalty, faithfulness and fighting spirit! At this, many of them shed tears of thanks and joy. All hardships and difficulties they had encountered in serving the mission flashed through their minds – before, these memories were painful, but now as their mission was over successfully, they became beautiful memories in their hearts that they would talk about over and over. As they fought the Lords battle wholeheartedly, so now each one of them had so many great and glorious stories to talk about, which only God and each of them knew – how they fought the enemies who were on the iron chariots; how they defeated them on one on one battle by the power of God. When we finish our battle successfully and stand before our Lord Jesus Christ, we will be happy and satisfied; he will say to us, Well done, good and faithful servants!

 

Look at verse 5. Lets read this verse together:

 

But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.

 

So far, during the conquest, they had been doing very well, serving God wholeheartedly. As a result, they were mighty warriors in God. No enemy could withstand them. They were very successful and prosperous. Now the war was over, and they would be in peace and prosperity. Joshua fully acknowledged how these Trans-Jordan tribes had served God wholeheartedly, but he still issued this direction so that they might love God and serve Him wholeheartedly all the more. What should they do to keep loyalty to God? Joshua said, Be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you. The secret of keeping our loyalty to God continually even in the time of peace and prosperity is to carefully keep Gods commandment, striving all the more to live according to Gods will and purpose. 

 

In verse 5, Joshua defines what it means to keep Gods commandment in five different ways: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul. In the time of prosperity and blessing, there may be many things they could love - maybe, 80 inch big screen TV, or MercedesBenz, or Porsche sports cars, or their PhD degree, or peoples recognition; or a mansion in Beverly Hills. At that time, how could they keep Gods commandment? By loving God alone, by giving their hearts to God alone! Joshuas understanding of keeping the commandment and the law is really different from that of many Christians today. Many people say, In the New Testament, we are free from the law. They consider the laws of God something very bad and they try to avoid them as long as possible. But to Joshua, keeping the commandment and the law meant to love God. Loving God is Gods commandment. Those who love God keep the commandment, but those who do not love God do not keep it. Jesus says, Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. (Jn 14:21) He also says, If you love me, you will obey what I command. (Jn 14:15) Today, be very careful to keep the commandment and the law.

 

During the time of the conquest, they carefully walked in the ways of God, following his instructions, because it was the matter of life and death. But now when there was no challenge or no danger, it would be very easy for them to take everything easy and do things in their own ways, according to their own desires and convenience. In that situation, what does it mean to keep Gods commandment? It means to walk in Gods ways, doing all things in the way God desires - in the matter of choosing a major, or career; in the matter of marriage, in the matter of business, in all things. Surely, walking in Gods ways or obeying Gods commands requires a lot of struggle; it is the life of walking in the narrow path - no compromise. Maybe, they had to deny their own desires and plans, and even do what they do not want to do. But thats how they would keep Gods commandment, living according to Gods will and purpose and enjoy Gods blessing continually.

 

Keeping Gods commandment also means to hold fast to the LORD. This expression means to grab on him firmly that you are not taken away from him. When a tornado attacks you, sucking up everything into the air, while both of your feet are already in the air, what should you do? You must hold fast to something that is firmly secured on the ground wholeheartedly as the matter of life and death. During the conquest, they held fast to the LORD literally as the matter of life and death; they wholeheartedly held fast to him so that they might win and conquer the land. But now in the time of peace and prosperity, while things went well, it was very easy to lower their guard. Then, when temptations came, or some challenges came, they would be blown away and not found in God any longer. Thats why it was really essential for them to hold fast to the Lord with a hearts complete determination to choose God and remain in himActually, this was the very expression Moses used in his final message to the Israelites right before they entered the promised land. During 40 years training in the desert, they didnt have that much distraction. But then, as they entered the promised land and began to enjoy so many desirable things, it was very easy to be distracted and side-tracked and thereby, taken away from God. What should they do to overcome this danger in the promised land? Moses said to them in Deuteronomy 10:20, Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. In Deuteronomy 11:22, he sums up all the commandments, saying, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways and to hold fast to him... He again says in Deuteronomy 13:14, serve him and hold fast to him. Finally he says in Deuteronomy 30:20, you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him. This was the instruction Moses gave them with such an anguished heart and earnestness so that they might not be blown away, but remain in God and enjoy Gods blessing continually in the promised land. And now Joshua delivered the same message using this expression two times - in 22:5, and in 23:8. Hold fast to the Lord so that you may remain in God and enjoy his blessing in the promised land, in the time of Gods blessing. Indeed, Joshua was Moses disciple. Keeping the commandment of God means to hold fast to the LORD so that you may not be blown away by temptations or difficulties, but remain in him to the end and enjoy Gods blessing continually.

 

Keeping Gods commandment means also to serve God with all our heart and all our souls. Some people think that they are serving God because they do what they should do as Christians - they do basic duties as believers such as going to church once a week, occasionally read the Bible, or bring offerings to church. But doing basic duties of Christians does not mean that you serve God. Doing some basic obligations or duties does not mean that you keep Gods commandment. No one can serve God in that way. Only when we serve God with all our heart and soul, when we serve God wholeheartedly, canwe really serve God, and thats how we can keep Gods commandment.

 

Look at verse 8. Joshua blessed them, saying, Return to your homes with your great wealth—with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing—and divide with your brothers the plunder from your enemies. As they served Gods conquest wholeheartedly, now the time of enjoying wealth and prosperity had come. They became rich and successful. How happy and excited they would be when they divided the plunder with their brothers and sisters. One for you, one for me. This diamond ring is for you, and this ruby bracelet is for me. They would divide expensive and precious jewels and articles of gold and silver, which they had not worked for, as if they were theirs. What a great thing it is to divide the plunder which you have not worked for. Jesus says, I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields-- and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30) We must believe that God blesses us even materially when we love him and serve him wholeheartedly.

 

Joshua 22:9-34 talks about an episode that shows the zeal of the Israelites for God. The Trans-Jordan tribes left Shiloh to return to their own home, Gilead on the east side of the Jordan, but before they crossed the Jordan River, they built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. When the Israelites heard about this, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them, thinking that the Trans-Jordan tribes rebelled against God. They were ready to fight against their own people, if it was for God. In this way, they valued their relationship with God above their relationship with their brothers. Later, when they found that the Trans-Jordan tribes did so because of their desire for God, they were glad and praised God. The Trans-Jordan tribes built the altar, not for burnt offerings or sacrifices, but as the replica of the Lords altar as a witness.

 

Second, So be very careful to love the Lord your God(23:1-16). Chapter 23 is Joshuas farewell message for the leaders of Israel. When Joshua was very old, he summoned all Israel—their elders, leaders, judges and officials—and gave this message. In verses 3 through 5, Joshua talked about what God had done for them – how God had fought for them and given them the land – and what God would do for them – he would drive out the nations among them. He said, The Lord your God himself will drive them out before you, and you will take possession of their land. The Israelites served the conquest in the land of Canaan, but they were not able to destroy all of their enemies, because of their lack of faith, or lack of fighting spirit, or zeal to complete the task. Despite their struggle, the conquest was only half-done. But if they remained true to God continually, God would do the rest of the job and complete the task. God would drive the enemies out and give the land to the Israelites as he had promised. So, in view of this hope in God, what should they do? Look at verses 6 through 8. Lets read these verses together:

 

6Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. 7Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. 8But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.

 

Through his life of faith for the past 100 years, Joshua learned a very important lesson. He learned that when they trusted in God and remained faithful to God, they were strong and powerful. One of them routed a thousand because the Lord fought for them. But when they rebelled against God, they could not stand at all; they were weak, and powerless, and even God was against them. He really learned that his nationfuture was totally up to their attitude toward God. Moses learned this long time ago, and right before his death, he shouted to the Israelites, See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live,… (Deut 30:15-20) 

 

So, in the same way, with such an anguished heart, Joshua told them, Be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning to the right or to the left.

 

God set before us life and death, blessings and curses. Which one will you choose? When you remain true to God, you will enjoy life and prosperity, but when you become untrue to God, you will suffer. The history of Israel proves this; so many Christians whose lives have been devastated prove this. Many Christian families are broken. Many Christians live in great sorrow and pain. They cry on someones shoulder, saying, I dont know why my life is so hard. It is Gods will to bless us. But why such terrible things happen in the lives of many church-going people? Why are their lives so miserable? It is because they have not been careful to obey Gods commandment. As Gods people, life and death, curses and blessings are set before us. If we are very careful to obey God, we will enjoy life and blessing. Choose life and blessings! 

 

In verse 11, Joshua also shouts, So be very careful to love the Lord your God. Usually, people think that the Old Testament talks about keeping the Law. But when we study the Old Testament, we see that Moses and Joshua keep talking about loving God. Moses received the Law and gave it to the Israelites, but he was not legalistic. He loved God and enjoyed Gods love. He kept encouraging people to love God: Deuteronomy 6:5 - Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 30:20 – You may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him. Joshua also says, So be very careful to love the Lord your God. Those who love God really obey his command. The Israel people tried to live as Gods people by keeping the laws, but when they did not struggle to love God, they became only legalistic, and thus, failed to become children of God; instead, they became children of the devil who killed the Holy Son of God to the cross. Modern day, Christians do not make efforts to love God; instead, they think that they become children of God by simply saying, I believe in Jesus. At least, the Israel people tried hard, but modern Christians even do not try to seek God that muchIn order to love God, we must be very careful, because the minute we relax, we end up loving something else or someone else rather than God. There are so many good looking, or attractive looking things in the world. Sin looks very attractive. Many students love computer gamesspending tons of time, but they are very reluctant to spend even one hour a week for Bible study. People love sports; they love basketball or football more than God. So at the sacrifice of worship service, they play sports or watch sports games. Many people love their dreams and future plans. Many people love money or pleasures. In this confusing world, we must be very careful so that we may really love God, not something or someone elseWe must make all possible efforts to love God. Joshua commands us, So be very careful to love the Lord your God.

 

Third, We will serve the Lord (24:1-33). In chapter 24, verses 2 through 13, Joshua delivers Gods message to the Israelites. Before, the Israelites lived as slaves worshiping idols – such a life of slavery and idol-worship was meaningless and worthless, but God saved them from such a miserable life and brought them into the freedom of God. Moreover, God brought them into a land on which they did not toil and cities they did not build; and they lived in them and ate from vineyards and olive groves that they did not plant. Surely, Gods grace upon them was marvelous. When we read Gods message in this passage carefully, which Joshua delivered to the Israelites, we can see that God did not mention about anything else, but just what He had done for them – simply, God wanted them to remember what He had done for them, what marvelous grace He had shown on them. When they remembered this grace of God, they would love and thank God deeply

 

Now, based on this, Joshua instructed them what to do. Look at verses 14 and 15. Lets read these verses together:

 

Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

 

Joshua challenged them to make their hearts determination utmost clear – either choose to serve God, or serve the idols. Many people experience Gods marvelous grace; they even shed tears; but they live their life without making their hearts concrete decision to serve God and worship Him only; as a result, despite Gods marvelous grace, they do not have any steadfast commitment to God, and thereby, they never grow up as mature Christians; even after attending church for 10 years or 20 years, there is no true or fundamental change in their life. Instead, as challenges rise and temptations come, they easily forget what God has done for them, and even they become sinful and worldly. Without making a hearts concrete decision to serve God only, no one can live as real Christians; simply, people receive Gods grace in vain; it is the matter of time they are blown away from God. Joshua challenged them to choose either to serve God or serve idols. 

 

Idol worship is mans struggle to find happiness and prosperity through something else rather than God. In the ancient times, people expected that these idols would bring them the sense of security, happiness and success. Now people look for the sense of security, happiness and success in money, career, and fame; these people do not worship God, but give their hearts to these things. They are idol worshipers. We should not be idol worshipers, but worshipers of God. As we have experienced Gods grace personally, now is the time we must make our hearts complete determination to serve God and worship Him only.

 

Joshua said to them, But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. No matter how others would do, Joshua was determined that he would serve God alone. Even if the trend in our society is idol-worship, I will serve the Lord. Even the whole world may go upside down, we will serve the Lord.

 

Look at verses 16 through 18. At this challenge of Joshua, the Israel people shouted, saying, Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods!... They remembered what God had done for them – how God saved them from the life of slavery, and how God fought for them and gave them the promised land. Based on this, they said to Joshua, We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.

 

How did Joshua respond to their decision? Did he say, You have made a good decision? No. Instead, he said, You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God… What he meant was, I dont think you can serve him, because he is holy and you are not holy. He showed them that serving God would not be done with just a lip service; instead, in order to serve God, they had to make practical efforts to be holy by removing all the idols from them. Serving God is not the matter of offering a lip service, saying, I love the Lord. I believe in Jesus. Instead, practically, we must remove all idols from our hearts and life and turn to God. We must practically make our hearts determination that we will not seek the sense of security, sense of success and fulfillment in a career, money, or in marriage, but in God; God should be our security; God should be the meaning and purpose of our life; thats how we can serve God, not just a lip service alone. At this challenge, the people shouted all the more, saying, No! We will serve the Lord. Then, Joshua said to them, You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord. They replied, Yes, we are witnesses. Look at verses 23 and 24. Lets read these verses together:

 

23Now then, said Joshua, throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel. 24And the people said to Joshua, We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.

 

Making hearts determination cannot be done with lip service alone, but with practical turning of their life to God. In order to serve God, they must throw away other idols from their hearts and lives. At this challenge, they were fully determined that they would serve God alone. On that day, Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. He took a large stone and set it up there as a witness. Then, Joshua sent them away, each to his own inheritance. In helping them make their hearts decision to serve God, he had them make their confession of faith three times; they shouted, We will serve the Lord three times - in verses 18, 21, 24. This reminds us of how Jesus helped the apostle Peter make his confession of love three times. Through making their confession of faith three times openly, they were indeed determined to serve the Lord alone; they were really determined to remove all the foreign gods that were among them and to give their hearts to God alone. Thanks to Joshuas help, they remained faithful to the Lord all the days of their life, until that whole generation died.

 

Verses 28 through 33 is the epilogue of the book of Joshua. Here, in the last passage of the book, we see the scene of the death of three people – Joshua, Eleaser, and Joseph. Other people died and were buried in the desert because of their disobedience and rebellion against God, but Joshua and Eleazer died and were buried in the Promised Land because they followed their God wholeheartedly. Their lives were fully dedicated to God, and as a result, their end was meaningful and inspirational. Joseph also lived in the hope of the Promised Land, so he was buried in the Promised Land. 

 

The last scene of these three men teaches us how we must live our lives here on earth. All men die, but how we die shows how we have lived, and each person is responsible for it. Then, which way is the true way of life we should live? How should we live our life? The life of following God wholeheartedly like Joshua, like Caleb. We must live our life that is fully dedicated to God – thats the way of truly successful life. We must live the life of serving God wholeheartedly putting our hope in the kingdom of God! This day, choose for yourselves whom you will serve! Choose God, choose life and blessings for yourselves!

 

One Word:Be Very Careful To Love The Lord Your God

 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

posted Mar 3, 2019, 9:31 PM by Site Administrator

 

TOWNS FOR THE LEVITES

 

Joshua 20:1-21:45

Key Verses 21:41,42

 

The towns of the Levites in the territory held by the Israelites were forty-eight in all together with their pasturelands. Each of these towns had pasturelands surrounding it; this was true for all these towns.

 

First, “the cities of refuge” (20:1-9). In the previous passage, we learned about how the twelve tribes of Israel came to occupy their own tribal inheritance in the promised land. Those who had passion for the land got what they wanted. But when the seven tribes remained passive, Joshua cast lots and divided the land among them. Surely, forceful men lay hold of the kingdom of God. In this way, God spread the Israelites throughout the land, tribe by tribe. Then, God spoke to Joshua, “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses.” The cities of refuge were the places where the accused of murder could flee to, and be protected from the avenger of blood for a fair trial. In Numbers chapter 35, God gave the Israelites his instructions of how they should deal with murder. If anyone killed other person intentionally either with tools in his hand or without any tools, it is the first degree murder - that murderer must be put to death. The avenger of blood such as the victim’s family member or friend shall put him to death. But if a person killed someone unintentionally such as without seeing him, dropped a stone on him, and he died, this person is not a murderer. Then, in this case, God commanded the Israelites to judge between him and the avenger of blood, and when he was proven not guilty of murder, he must be sent back to the city of refuge, protected from the avenger of blood until the death of the high priest. But if the accused ever went outside the limits of the city of refuge to which he had fled and the avenger of blood found him outside the city, the avenger of blood might kill the accused without being guilty of murder. The accused must stay in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest; only after the death of the high priest might he return to his own property.  

 

In those days, usually, this kind of unintentional murder did not happen so often, because there was no car accident; such cases were like when a man dropped a stone or an axhead flew away and killed other - certainly, that kind of event did not happen that often. But God was mindful of those minor accused ones and provided for them six cities as their refuge. In this world, we need refuge, in which we can be protected from our powerful and growling enemies, and God considers our case; our God provides a refuge for us so that we can find relief from burdens and anxieties and have a chance to be restored. Our God is our true refuge from all our enemies.

 

When he was proven not guilty, still he should stay in the city until the death of the high priest at that time. Anyway, because of him, one person, maybe, someone’s husband or wife, or someone’s faithful father or beloved mother, died. He was not completely irresponsible for the loss of others’ beloved one; he could not simply say, “I am sorry; it was an accident.” So, even if he was proven not guilty of murder, still his freedom was limited, and he was confined in the city of refuge. How happy he was that he was protected from the avenger of blood. But at the same time, how sorrowful he was that he could not go back home where his beloved family was waiting for him. His hope of going back home could come true only when the high priest died. So, how earnestly he wished for the death of the high priest! If the high priest was old, and was about to die, he would have no problem. But what if the high priest was young and healthy!? Probably, he would have to stay away from his family for 10 years or 20 years, or perhaps, he would die before the high priest died. What a great dilemma it was – he must have hoped and prayed for the death of the high priest, for his own life and freedom. The death of the high priest was good news that would bring to him freedom of going back home and seeing his family again. 

 

Usually, when a bad man dies, people rejoice; but when a good person such as the high priest dies, people mourn for him. But to the accused man in the city of refuge, the death of a holy man, the high priest, was the good news of great joy. Have you ever heard about good news that comes from someone’s death? The system of the cities of refuge is the shadow of the good news that comes from the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Fundamentally speaking, all men are like the accused confined in the city of refuge. Actually, it was not our intention to sin; simply, people sin naturally; since the transgression of the first man Adam, our nature was corrupted; sin has become our nature. In this sense, sin is unintentional. But at the same time, we cannot simply say, “I cannot help but sin, because I am sinful in nature,” because, no matter what, we have sinned. In this sense, sin is always willful. Because of sin, all people are confined in this world, far far away from their true home, the kingdom of God. That is the reason why people cannot be satisfied with their life here on earth, no matter how successful they may be – simply, people live in a foreign country; they look for their own home country. This is the reason why the desire for a truly happy life, or the desire for eternal life, has been one of the main themes all peoples on earth throughout human history have pursued. People cannot be satisfied with how they are living in this world, because this is not their home land, but a foreign town.

 

How can we go back home where we can finally rest in peace and happiness, where we can have true family reunion? Good works such as donating a lot of money for a good cause, or great philanthropic acts, cannot bring us back home. Great toil of torturing ourselves religiously cannot either. Chanting endlessly or sitting in front of a wall in meditation cannot. We can go home only when our High Priest dies. 

 

How thankful we are that our High Priest, Jesus Christ, died on the cross for us so that we can go back home. Jesus died on the cross about 2,000 years ago as our eternal High Priest in order of Melchizdek. Now everyone who accepts him as the high priest, the Mediator between God and them, can go back home freely. His death brings forgiveness of our sins and makes us new as if we have done nothing wrong or sinful, so we are set free to go back home. Jesus is the only way of salvation for all mankind because He is the only one who died for us as our High Priest - No one else - Buddha did not die for us; Mohamed did not die for us, but only Jesus died for us as our High Priest. 

 

According to God’s instruction, the Israelites set apart six cities, three cities on the east side of the Jordan, and three on the west, covering the whole land of Canaan. Israel people did not know what God was really talking about through these cities of refuge, but when they obeyed God’s instruction and followed it, they could establish a civilized society with a court system, based on fairness and justice. 

 

Second, “Towns for the Levites” (21:1-45). Joshua chapter 21 describes how the Levites came to receive their own towns from the twelve tribes of Israel in the promised land. All the 12 tribes of Israel received their own inheritance in the land, but God did not give the Levites any inheritance among their brothers in the land. Instead, God had them serve God’s work as full time servants. The Levites were a special tribe among the Israel people, set apart for God’s purpose exclusively. God did not want them to be distracted by job or business matter so that they would focus on serving God’s purpose only. So, God did not give them any earthly inheritance. Instead, as they served God’s purpose wholeheartedly, God gave them offerings and tithe as their inheritance. Joshua 13:14 says, “the offerings made by fire to the Lord, the God of Israel are their inheritance.” Joshua 13:33 reads, “The Lord, the God of Israel is their inheritance.” Joshua 18:7 reads: “The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the LORD is their inheritance.” As they served God’s work wholeheartedly, God supported them with offerings and tithe that the 12 tribes of Israel brought to Him. These offerings and tithe belonged to the Levites as their inheritance. When we serve God wholeheartedly, God surely provides us with everything we need so that we can serve Him continually.

 

In addition to the offerings and tithe, God instructed the Israel people to give the Levites 48 towns together with their pasturelands. (Num 35:2-3,7) The Levites needed houses to live in. So, God commanded the Israel people to support them by giving their own towns. Also, when people brought flocks and herds as their offerings and tithe, the Levites needed pasturelands to take care of them too. So, God, specifically mentioned that the towns the Israel people would give to the Levites must have pasturelands surrounding the towns.

 

So, the Israel people gave the Levites forty-eight towns. Big tribes such as Judah gave many towns to them, and small tribes gave few – in total, forty-eight towns from the twelve tribes of Israel, and among them, six cities were designated as the cities of refuge.

 

Verses 4 through 8 describe how the descendants of Kohath, Gershon, and Merari – the three sons of Levi – received their towns to live in. Among them, uniquely, the first lot came out for the Kohathites, clan by clan and the Levites who were descendants of Aaron the priests were allotted thirteen towns from the tribes of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin. These tribes’ inheritance was located around Hebron including Jerusalem. At that time, the Tent of Meeting—the portable temple was set in Shiloh in Ephraim. But strangely, all the towns for the priests were designated by lot in the Jerusalem area. It was God who chose Jerusalem to be the center of God-worship in Israel. Later, Jerusalem would be the capital city of Israel, and there, God’s temple would be built and God’s holy Son, the Eternal High Priest would die on the cross for the forgiveness of everyone who believed in him. And from Jerusalem whose name means, “teaching of peace,” the good news of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ would spread to the four corners of the world. Later, in Jerusalem, God’s temple would be built again.

 

The rest of the Kohathites received ten towns from the tribes of Ephraim, Dan and half of Manasseh. The descendants of Gershon were allotted thirteen towns from the tribes of Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan. The descendants of Merari received twelve towns from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Zebulun. So, the Levites came to occupy forty-eight towns in the land.

 

Verses 9 through 39 give us the list of all towns given to the Levites by each tribe. When the twelve tribes occupied their own territory, Israel had no central government; Israel was a league of tribes or confederation of 12 tribes scattered throughout the land tribe by tribe. But now because of the towns of the Levites, they were connected to each other – the Levites living in them were the common factor among all the tribes of Israel. When God spread his people throughout the land, he did not send them alone, but together with the Levites living in their own towns, so that all of them would be served by the Levites and learn the word of God from them; then, all of them would come to know God’s ways and God’s will.Through the Levites, all the 12 tribes of Israel would remain as one nation under God. Through the service of the Levites, all these Israel people would grow to be experts in the Bible themselves, who would be able to teach others as well.

 

When God called the Israel people to the Mount Sinai,God spoke to them, showing his plan and purpose for them, saying, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exod 19:5-6) God’s plan for them was that they would be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. What kind of kingdom is a kingdom of priests? It is a kingdom all whose citizens are priests. God’s plan was that all of the Israel people would be priests who could minister others, all the nations on earth. Through these Israel people, all peoples on earth would be served and brought back to God. Then, how could these ordinary people of Israel grow to be priests? Through the Levites who were living in their own tribal territory! The Levites that were living among the 12 tribes were at the focal point of God’s world salvation plan.

 

This is God’s master plan for the Israel people, and now we are seeing his blue print in today's passage. This is God’s vision for all of us. This is how God’s churches must operate in this world. Church is not the place for people to come and have some good time only, but the place where God’s word is preached, and through the word of God, people grow to become priests themselves who can minister others with the word of God also. Churches must function as the Levites’ towns to serve and fulfill God’s purpose of establishing the whole nation as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. It is our prayer that through us, through our one to one Bible studies, America may be established as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for the whole world.

 

Look at verses 41 and 42. Let’s read these verses together:

 

The towns of the Levites in the territory held by the Israelites were forty-eight in all together with their pasturelands. Each of these towns had pasturelands surrounding it; this was true for all these towns.

  

The Levites’ towns had a unique feature that identified them very clearly – all of them in common were surrounded by pasturelands. These pasturelands were for the practical purpose of taking care of their flocks and herds. But since all of their towns were surrounded by these green pasturelands, the Levites came to be known as people living in the towns surrounded by pasturelands. In short, they were identified as shepherds in Israel. This shows that God wanted the Levites to become shepherds for God’s people Israel, not that they would serve God and God’s people technically, but that they would become real shepherds for God’s people, serving them with hearts and zeal. 

 

The priests in Israel failed to fulfill God’s purpose on them because they served God only technically, only focusing on offering authentic and gorgeous looking sacrifices and ceremonies. They were experts in performing ceremony, but they were not shepherds. The Pharisees failed to serve God’s flock despite their great knowledge of the Bible, because they too tried to serve God’s will only technically, relying on their own Bible knowledge and intelligence. Today, many people try to do God’s work by gaining degrees, titles and positions. The apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth, “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” (1Cor 4;15) Jesus wants us to become shepherds for his flock, saying, “Feed my lambs.” “Take care of my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” So our struggle should be about becoming shepherds. Proclaiming himself as the good shepherd, he says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Let’s pray that we may be shepherds for God’s flock. How? By being concerned about their well-being, by carrying them in our hearts and teaching them the word of God diligently so that under our care, their wounds and scars may be mended and they may enjoy a wonderful life. 

 

Look at verses 43 through 45. Let’s read these verses together:

 

43So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. 45Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

 

“Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” When Israel came to occupy the land of Canaan, people could see that everything had been done according to God’s promises given to Abraham about six hundred years ago, and they were shocked. Probably, people forgot about God’s promises; no one might remember them. But during this long period of time, God had not forgotten his promises to Abraham. He had fulfilled his promises and given the land to Israel. 

 

In this ever-changing and ever-confusing world, there are not that many things we can rely on. For our future, we cannot rely on a job market analysis – situation can change any time. No one trusts what politicians say.  Everything changes, but God’s word remains the same forever. God’s promise is reliable. We must rely on God’s word and live by it, not on our ever-changing desires and emotions. God’s promise comes true.

 

One Word:Towns Of The Levites Surrounded By Pasturelands

 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

posted Feb 24, 2019, 7:53 PM by Site Administrator

NOW GIVE ME THIS HILL COUNTRY THAT THE LORD PROMISED ME THAT DAY

 

Joshua 13:1-19:51

Key Verse 14:12

 

Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

 

          First, “Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day” (13:1-15:63). Look at verse 1. It reads: “When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the Lord said to him, “You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.” In chapter 14:7, Caleb said that he was forty years old when he was sent out to explore the land of Canaan with other 11 people. Now he became 85 years old, showing that since they started the conquest, five years had passed. Now Joshua was very old. At this moment, even though the majority of Canaan was conquered, still very large areas of land remained unconquered - all the Philistine areas, the Sidonian areas, the region of the Amorites, the area of the Gebalites, and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath. God did not wait until the Israelites conquered them all. Instead, in verses 6 and 7, God gave an order to Joshua to allocate the land to Israel, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh. God’s idea was very clear: From then on, each tribe would do their conquest for their own inheritance.

 

          God’s promise was not what they could take as a free gift, but it was what they should claim and take possession of by fighting for it and capturing it; that was God’s idea. God allocated the whole world to his churches. Each church, each ministry is assigned to their own specific inheritance. God's calling is God's promise for us – God wants you to have this portion – that’s God’s calling, and God wants each tribe, each church, each ministry to conquer their own inheritance, their own specific mission area. Some ministry for homeless people on the streets; some ministries for starving children in Africa, some ministries for dying patients in hospitals. God has given us all college campuses in the world. We don't need to worry about other tribes' and ministries' inheritances. The tribe of Judah does not need to worry about the inheritance of the tribe of Benjamin. God wants each ministry to conquer their own allocated inheritance by themselves, by trusting in God, by relying on God’s help. When each tribe fulfills their mission and secures their own inheritance, God's kingdom grows powerfully all together. 

 

          At this new direction, the tribe of Judah approached Joshua, and Caleb was their leader. Who was Caleb? He was one of the twelve spies Moses sent out to explore Canaan 45 years ago. When they returned to the camp in Kadesh Barnea, the other 10 spies brought a bad report, but, two spies, Joshua and Caleb, brought a good report. Caleb concludes his life before God in one sentence, saying, “I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.” What a blessed man he was who could say, “I followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.” When he looked back his life, he had no regret, because he had pursued God without any second thought; his conscience was free and he was ready to meet God any time. He was indeed a happy man who had nothing to be afraid of. He was a real victor. It was not his own opinion only. God's servant Moses also saw him in the same way, saying, “Because you have followed the Lord, my God wholeheartedly.” In the eyes of Moses, God’s servant, Joshua was fully committed to God, and thereby, really reliable and trustworthy. Moses was greatly encouraged and comforted by Caleb's single-hearted love for the Lord. Then, God also recognized him in the Bible. Verse 14 reads, “So Hebron belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.” He was a happy man who had nothing to regret about; he was a great man who had nothing to be afraid of. It was all because he had followed the Lord wholeheartedly. Do you want to be great in God? Then, follow the Lord your God wholeheartedly. At the age of 60, 70 or 80, how are you going to describe your life? Don’t you want to say, “I have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly?” If you can say that, you are true victors in life. This makes us think about how we live our life today. Today, we must struggle to follow the Lord our God wholeheartedly.

 

I personally honor missionary Jose Ahn in Chicago. He served God’s work as a Korean diplomat in Latin America. When a fellow Korean diplomat asked him for Bible study, he refused to teach, saying, “My gospel is not for Koreans, but for the Gentiles.” When I heard him sharing that testimony in 1990 at the World Mission Report, I was thrilled. I was amazed at his clear sense of identity as God’s servant. In 2004 I was in the most difficult situation in my entire mission life. I was attending the summer Bible conference in Brazil. There, he served Group Bible study on Genesis 17 for the missionaries; he taught the passage wholeheartedly. And God’s words, “I am God Almighty. Walk before me and be blameless,” touched my heart. I had been thinking about why such terrible things happened to me, and how come others did such unjust things to me. I was confused, and I was asking God for the answer, saying, “Why? Why?” But God’s message was that, no matter what others had done, I must walk before him and be blameless. God’s words changed my whole perspectives. This instantly revived me and set me on the right track. Now he is in his seventieth, and he cannot hear properly. A few years ago, I met him at the Staff conference and said to him, “Your life has revealed God’s glory very powerfully.” At this, he said, “Now the important thing is how I finish my life in God so that God’s glory can be revealed.” For this, he, even in his seventieth, struggles hard to do God’s work, teaching students the Bible and visiting Latin American countries and serving many missionaries there. We have seen many examples like this: Mother Barry poured out her life for college mission, even giving up her marriage for God’s work – even if she is 87 years old, she still serves Group Bible studies and one to one for many; the three old ladies who visited us in the sheep pen – missionary Grace A. Lee (Dr. Samuel Lee’s wife), missionary Sunji Jun (Dr. John Jun’s wife), and missionary Rebekah Choi. Missionary Rebekah Choi had some difficulty due to stroke, but her spirit was overwhelming. Again, how happy we will be, when, at the age of 60 or 70, we can say, “I have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.” So, today, let’s follow God wholeheartedly. Such people are truly victorious.

 

Look at chapter 14, verses 11 and 12. Let’s read these verses together:

 

11I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

 

          He was eighty-five years old, a really old man. Yet, he said, “I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.” Wow! An eighty-five years old man was willing to go out to battle, I mean, sword fight, more scary than UFC octagon fight. That was Caleb’s passion for God. This is what we want to learn from him that as God’s servants, as Jesus’ disciples that, even at the age of 40, 50, 60 or even at the age of 70, we go out to campus, and struggle hard to find new sheep, going through rejection after rejection, and thereby, crying out to God for help with tears, saying, “Lord, have mercy on me! Send me a sheep.”

 

For the past forty five years, Caleb had been waiting for this moment. How frustrated he was when he, because of the disobedience and rebellion of his people, had to turn to the desert right at the border of the promised land, and spend forty years in the desert. Forty years were very long for him to wait. How many times he sobbed and wept loudly for the sorrow of having to waste forty years in wandering in the desert! Probably, he had dreamed about going into the promised land, conquering, occupying it and enjoying God’s blessing generation after generation. Now, the minute the new direction of diving the land was announced, he boldly came out to Joshua and claimed God’s promise for him, saying, “Now here I am!...Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day.”

 

The land Caleb claimed was Hebron, a historic place for all Israel people. There, in Hebron, Abraham had purchased the cave of Machpelah from Ephron, the Hittite, as a burial site. There, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah were buried; this cave was like home to all Israel people – the most important place for all of them. Caleb claimed Hebron based on God’s promise and secured it. Then, later God’s world redemption history would develop from this area. Thus, his tribe, the tribe of Judah would play the main role in God’s world redemption plan.

 

          Caleb said to Joshua, “You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” The Anakites were strong and tall warriors, a gigantic tribe. Even there was a saying, “Who can stand against the Anakites?” (Deut 9:2) And their cities were large and well fortified. Caleb could have been discouraged when he heard about the Anakites, and changed his mind about Hebron; he could have chosen an easy area; but still knowing that the Anakites were living in Hebron, and that the cities were large and well fortified, he claimed Hebron, because he believed in God's help, saying, “but the Lord helping me, I will drive them out.” People feared the Anakites. But when Caleb followed God wholeheartedly, he saw everything differently. He was confident that with God helping him, he would certainly drive out all the Anakites. That’s how he saw things. When he followed the Lord his God wholeheartedly, he could see things in that way – everything seemed possible, because God would help him. That’s how people who follow the Lord wholeheartedly see things. Thus, their words and attitude change; their way of thinking and ideas are different.

 

          College campuses are God’s promised land for us. But the problem is that the campuses are like well fortified cities with many Anakites, not easy to pioneer or conquer. Sometimes, their tight schedule looks like thick and strong walls. The world has fortified these students with heavy school loads and all kinds of humanistic ideas and isms. Desire for success and materialistic life has surrounded them tightly. Often, this humanism, materialism, or pleasure-seeking life looks like the formidable Anakites. Sometimes, these students’ girlfriends or boyfriends act as the Anakites, struggling hard to protect them from God, even threatening Bible teachers to stop teaching their boyfriends or girlfriends. Many people have desired to pioneer colleges, but most of them give up, because of these difficulties. But remember what Caleb said, “But, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Don’t you think you can drive out all these Anakites if the Lord helps you? Don’t you think you can build God’s kingdom on your campuses, if God helps you? As God was happy with Caleb who followed him wholeheartedly, God is happy with those who follow him wholeheartedly. As God was pleased to give the best area of Canaan to Caleb, God is pleased to give us His promised land, all college campuses in California, when we follow him wholeheartedly.

 

God’s calling is God’s promise; it is God’s will for us; God’s calling is like God saying, “This is what I want you to take.” Now, we claim this promise of God saying, “Now give me all these campuses that the Lord promised me that day.” The enemies have fortified their cities on the campuses in California so heavily, but, the Lord helping us, we will certainly drive them out just as he said. 

 

          Joshua blessed Caleb and gave Hebron to him. Chapter 15 describes the territory of Judah. They occupied the southern part of Canaan, including Hebron and Jerusalem area. They occupied the largest portion of the land. Thus, the tribe of Judah became the leading tribe in Israel.

 

          Second, “Go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves” (16:1-17:18). Chapters 16 and 17 describe the territory of Joseph’s two sons – Ephraim and Manasseh. They were given very large portions of the land. But look at verse 10 of chapter 16. Let’s read this verse together:

 

They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.

 

The tribe of Ephraim did not destroy the Canaanites in their territory, as a result, they had to live together with them. Also, look at verses 12 and 13 of chapter 17. Let’s read these verses together:

 

Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.

 

          The tribe of Manasseh had the same problem. They were not wholehearted in fulfilling God’s will. Verse 12 says that because the Canaanites were determined to live in the region, the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns. But this cannot be any excuse, because no one wants to be destroyed or kicked out of their own homes and houses. The enemies were determined, but the Manassites were not determined fully. As a result, they could not even occupy the towns. While they were on the other side of the Jordan, God gave them a clear direction to drive out all the inhabitants of the land before them. At that time, God warned them what would happen if they did not drive them out, but live together with them. God said to them, “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.” (Num 33:55,56)

 

But these two tribes – Ephraim and Manasseh – did not take God’s word so seriously; they didn’t have that much zeal for God’s purpose. As a result, they lived together with the Canaanites. In their eyes, the Canaanites were too strong. So, what did they do, instead? Look at verse 14 of chapter 17. The people of Joseph said to Joshua, “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people and the Lord has blessed us abundantly.” They just came to their leader and complained to Joshua that they had only one allotment, in which many powerful enemies were living, and asked him to give them more allotment – an easy one where no enemy was living. They didn’t mention about the Canaanites living in their towns or about the fact that they could not drive them out, but simply, blamed Joshua for not giving them many allotments.

 

          What was Joshua’s response? Look at verse 15 of chapter 17. Let’s read this verse together:

 

“If you are so numerous,” Joshua answered, “and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.”

 

          Joshua accepted their complaint and granted their wish; but he didn’t give them just one more allotment of free land. Instead, he had them extend their own territory by pioneering a new area – the forest in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites. “Go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there.” His direction was very clear: You go up and pioneer for yourself. They were looking for an easy mission field; they just wanted to enjoy the benefits, without having to do any work. But Joshua rebuked them of their easy-going mentality, and encouraged them to pioneer even the forest. The forest was filled with trees and they had to cut them down, clear the land for streets, houses, and for vineyards; it required a lot of works. At this new direction, they were shocked, and screamed, “But they have iron chariots.” Then, Joshua again said to them, “You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, you can drive them out.”

 

We are serving a new history of God’s salvation work – campus pioneering work through one to one Bible study and disciple-making; we struggle to establish God’s kingdom on our campuses where humanism, materialism and pleasure-seeking life are prevailing – it is like trying to build God’s kingdom in the forest by going up to the forest, clearing it by cutting down all the trees, and landscaping, and turning it into a beautiful city of God. We understand the sons of Joseph. Building a city in the forest is not easy. Building God’s kingdom from scratch to its completion is not easy. We started our church in a garage. But God is pleased with those who go up to the forest, clear the land and turn it into a beautiful city of God. Actually, it is really fun to build a city from scratch even if it is challenging - you can build it up to your heart's content - you have freedom and authority to do it in the way you desire. How cool it is that you build God's kingdom powerfully on the campus, in which enemy has been occupying! God’s will is not that we just sit in the church or enjoy Christian cultures, powerful worship and praise, and fellowship with others in a well established large church. Instead, God’s will is that we may pioneer God’s kingdom in this barren world. God wants us to go up even to the forest, wilderness, and there, pioneer God’s kingdom starting from scratch to its completion - it is really worth doing. Think about going to San Diego and pioneer God’s kingdom there – I desire to establish God’s kingdom at UCSD and CSUSD, so I cry out to God, “Lord, please accelerate your work so that we can send pioneers there. Or I want to go there.” What about San Francisco? Yes, let’s pioneer this great city. What about San Jose? There are many IT people who doggedly pursue success. With God helping us, we can surely establish God’s church there, and that church will be very rich with many rich IT people. We are thrilled. Go up to the forest, clear land and its farthest limits will be yours. This is God's will for you and for me. Finally, we have this mission to live for and die for, and we can now live up to our true potential. Once we clear the forest and build God’s kingdom on our campuses, then, numerous people will grow to be powerful spiritual leaders for God’s kingdom purpose; the entire society will change because of us. This is what we are doing. Joshua encourages us, saying, “Go up into the forest,… Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours.” Amen!

 

          Third, “How long will you wait?” (18:1-19:51). Look at chapter 18, verses 1 and 2. Now the country was brought under the control of Israel. So, the whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set the Tent of Meeting there. The Tent of Meeting was the Tabernacle, God’s dwelling place – a portable temple. The Levites carried all the parts of the Tabernacle and set it up at Shiloh that was in the territory of Ephraim. Setting up the Tent of Meeting shows that the war was almost over in the land, and the Israelites were ready to settle in Canaan; but there were still seven tribes who had not yet received their inheritance. Judah and the sons of Joseph acquired their inheritance by asking Joshua for what they wanted; but these seven tribes didn’t know what they wanted; they didn’t ask; just they were following others, without knowing where they were going and what they were doing. Even if they had participated in the battle under the leadership of Joshua, they didn't know what they were really doing and what God wanted them to do. They did not take any initiative to occupy the land. So, Joshua rebuked them, saying, “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?” 

 

          This whole world is God’s promised land for the believers to conquer and build God’s kingdom. But in reality, so many Christians don’t do anything; their eternal inheritance is right before their own eyes, but they don’t know what to do; they don’t have any desire or idea to take possession of it all the days of their life – 70 years or 80 years, and their life is fruitless and empty. During their whole life, they go to church once every Sunday, but they don't do anything to take possession of their promised land. They just sit in the church for 1 hour and then, go home, and one week later, they do the same thing. What are they doing during their whole life? Just wasting their time! Just neglecting God's will for their life! Once I was wondering, “Why didn’t God take me away to heaven when I believed in Jesus, but let me live in the world where so many different kinds of enemies and dangers are?” In my eyes, it would be much better if God took me away to heaven as soon as I opened my heart and accepted Jesus – then, I would be safe and secure in heaven. But strangely, God didn’t take me away, but let me live here. Then, soon, I realized that God wanted me to expand God’s kingdom on earth so that I would have glorious inheritance. Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-- fruit that will last.” (Jn 15:16) Surely, all Christians are on the conquest. The book of Exodus shows us how people can be saved, that is, through the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God; but the book of Joshua illustrates how we must live our lives here on earth – we are on the conquest to build and expand God’s kingdom here on earth as soldiers for Christ. The whole world would be eventually destroyed, and the earth will be given back to the children of God. We are in the promised land. The conquest is going on. But so many Christians do not take any action; they don’t know what’s going on; their desire is about how to survive in the world, not about how to conquer it and take possession of it. Joshua rebukes all these people, “How long will you wait before you take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers has given you?” “How long will you wait?”

 

          With this rebuke, Joshua had them choose three men from each tribe, and let them go through the land to write a description of it. When they returned with a thorough description of the land, he divided the land into seven parts, cast lots and distributed the land among them. Now, it was up to each tribe of how to deal with their enemies in their own territory. Those who drove out their enemies from their territory would enjoy their inheritance fully, but those who did not drive them out would have to live with them. God has distributed the land, the whole world among his people, ministry by ministry, church by church, and all college campuses have been given to us as our inheritance. They are God's promised land for us. As much as we pioneer and conquer, that much will be given to us not only in this life, but also in the life to come - indeed, all the campuses we conquer will be given to us as our eternal inheritance. So, let's go and pioneer all these campuses! Even the farthest limits of the land will be ours. Even though our enemies have iron chariots, we can surely drive them out, with God helping us.

 

          When they had finished dividing the land into its allotted portions, the Israelites gave Joshua the son of Nun an inheritance among them – the town he asked for – Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim.

 

One Word:   Now Give Me This Land That The Lord Promised Me That Day

 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

posted Feb 17, 2019, 10:33 PM by Site Administrator

O SUN, STAND STILL!

 

Joshua 9:1-12:24

Key Verse 10:12

 

On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel, O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.

 

First, The Gibeonites’ deception (9:1-27). In the previous passage, we learned about how the Israel people were defeated by Ai, and how they destroyed it. When they lost their spirit, but took things for granted, they lost the battle. Some people were killed. But when they repented and picked up zealous spirit and served the conquest with a fearful and trembling heart, following God’s instructions wholeheartedly, they won and destroyed the enemies completely. We must keep such sincerity andwholeheartedness in serving God’s kingdom work; then, we can truly rejoice as we advance God’s kingdom powerfully. After this battle, the conquest went in full scale. 

 

Look at verse 1 of chapter 9. At the news of destruction of Ai, the kingdoms in the southern area called to each other, talked about it, and decided to fight together against Israel. But while this was the trend in the region, the Gibeonites tried a different approach for their survival. Their elders got together and discussed about what they should do so that they might not die. In their eyes, it was futile to fight against Israel, God’s army. Instead, they resolved to a ruse. They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out bagsand old wineskins, cracked and mended. The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.

 

The Gibeonites sought refuge in God, not because they loved God, not because they wanted to worship God, but simply they did not want to be judged and destroyed by God; they wanted to survive. We can imagine how wholeheartedly they pursued survival even nationwide. Maybe, after the leaders’ conclusion, they held a nationwide audition to find the best actors, trained them according to the scenario they had made, and with all their costumes and props, they sent them on their mission earnestly hoping for success. They lied a lot; they deceived Israel, God’s army. But amazingly, it seemed that God accepted them; while they were acting out in front of the Israel people, God did not intervene; even after the peace treaty, God did not rebuke the Israelites either. Instead, He let them be woodcutters and water carriers for the altar of the Lord, supporting the priests for the worship of God. Later, when Saul became king, out of zeal for the nation Israel, he killed some of the Gibeonites; at this, God punished Israel by stopping rain for 3 years. (2 Sam 21) This reminds us of what Jesus says, Whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (Jn 6:37) Actually, we were like the Gibeonites. We studied the Bible not because we had genuine interest in God, not because we wanted to worship God or love God, but simply because we realized that hell was real and we didn’t want to go there; instead, we wanted to live; we wanted to go to heaven. And God did not reject us, but accepted us and supported us by sending us his servants who taught us the Bible; God blessed us by giving us his words and showing his love for us. God accepts and blesses those who seek refuge under his wings.

 

Now to the Israel people, their coming was completely unexpected. They’d never thought about making a treaty with anyone or any country, because during this whole time, God’s direction had been utmost clear – destroy everything in Canaan and occupy it. They were fully committed to this mission; all their concern was to fight, destroy and capture. They were like a well-sharpened sword. Then, suddenly, these people who wanted to make a treaty with them appeared! The Israel people must have felt something uneasy about making a treaty with them. These strangers looked somewhat suspicious. So, they said to the Hivites, But perhaps you live near us. How then can we make a treaty with you?When they felt uneasy about entering into a binding contractwith suspicious looking people, they should have taken some time to think about, pray about and wait. They were on the conquest; they did not have to jump into a binding contract right away. But verse 14 reads: The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Instead of asking God and waiting for God’s answer, they checked out the situations and evidences, and drew a conclusion on their own. As a result, they were deceived. They made a treaty of peace with them to let them live.

 

This shows us the importance of prayer. We have always some urgent situations in the job matter, in the family matter, in the relationship matter, in the financial matter; indeed, life is the succession of decision-making situations. When we do not pray, then, we have to make decisions based on the situations and conditions. Sometimes, our own fleshly desires, or worldly desires urge us to make a quick decision and jump into that binding contract. Sometimes, our own ill-emotions such as anger or bitterness or the sense of justice urge us to make a quick decision. This is what our enemy, the devilurges us to do all the time. There is a saying, War is deception. In our spiritual battle, if we are deceived, it means we are defeated. We must not be deceived by our own desires and emotions. Don’t jump into that binding contract right away. Instead, have time to really consider all things. Most of all, pray to God for help and guidance. What happens when you pray? As you come to God and spend time with God, often, God shows you what’s going on really; or, as you spend time with God in prayer, you begin to see things from God’s point of view, then, you can see everything clearly – what is really important and what is not, what you must really do and what you must not do, how things will go if you sign up. Pray in all things, and you will see things in the right way.

 

Three days later, the Israelites realized that they were deceived by the Gibeonites, but in honor of God’s name, they did not destroy them. Instead, they made them wood cutters and water carriers for Israel people and let them live among them. The world is in rebellion against God; the sin of the world has reached its limit and God's judgment has already been announced against the world. The only way of salvation is found in Christ Jesus. Those who fight against God, those who try to save themselves in their own ways will all perish, but those who humbly submit themselves to God's way of salvation will be saved. 

 

Second, O Sun, stand still (10:1-43). Now at the news of how Israel destroyed Ai, and how the Gibeonites made a treaty of peace with Israel, the five kings of the Amorites—Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it. The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua for help. So, Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including the best fighting men. Now, the nature of the battle had changed. Before, it was against one city or kingdom, but now, the Israel people had to fight against five kingdoms. Joshua was dead serious this time. God knew how Joshua was doing. While Joshua was so concerned about this battle, God visited him and said to him, Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you. God knew that Joshua needed the assurance of victory. 

 

Look at verse 9. When God’s confirmation of victory came to him, Joshua was overjoyed; with renewed strength, he, with his entire army, marched all night, and took the enemies by surprise. All night march shows that he and his army did not sleep that night, but marched. Then, in the morning, they were tired; but they didn't slow down at all. Instead, without taking any rest, they attacked the enemies by surprise. Joshua did not waste an hour in this battle. Then, God threw the enemies in confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As they fled before Israel, God hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites. Strangely, these hailstones only fell on the enemies; they never bothered the Israelites, because God was the perfect sniper. Indeed, it was really exciting to fight together with God. 

 

The battle started at dawn or early in the morning, and it lasted all day long. Israel soldiers killed the enemies all day long, but still, there were many enemies alive, and now it was getting dark; the sun was going down on the west and the moon already showed up in the skyIt seemed that Joshua had to stop the battle because it was getting dark; his soldiers had already done a good job. But when God was giving him the victory, he wanted to complete the task. So what did he do? Look at verse 12. Let’s read this verse together:

 

On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.

 

O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon. Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and the moon not to move. Naturally, there are 12 hours of day time, and 12 hours of night time. This cycle is set firmly by God. Usually, changing this natural law does not come to our mind; instead, people work around this cycle, doing their own works during daytime, and sleeping during night time. But Joshua didn't go this way, because, when he saw God working for Israel, he wanted to complete the battle; he didn't say, Next time, or Tomorrow. When God was fighting for Israel, it was the best time, and on that day, he wanted to secure the victory. When he had this in mind, simply the night time coming was nothing but a hindrance, obstacle, and he would not allow the night time stop him from winning the victory. So, he shouted and commanded the sun and the moon not to proceed their way any more. He yelled at them, saying, O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the valley of Aijalon. Could the sun hear his voice? Could the moon understand what he was talking about? They were too far from the earth to hear his voice. But Joshua didn't think about such a thing; whether the sun or the moon could hear him or not was not the matter at all; he just commanded them to stop moving - it was the expression of his zeal and passion for God's work that he would not allow anything to stop him from completing God's mission. 

 

In doing God’s work, the lack of time is the common problem we all have. As fulltime employees, or as fulltime students, or as parents, we have so many responsibilities that we are very limited in the matter of time. Usually people go by the situation. There are only 12 hours of day time, and after that, night comes when we cannot work any longer. Nothing can be done in this matter. But Joshua didn’t think that way! That’s what we must learn from Joshua. Because of his passion to complete the task while God was helping him, he told the sun and the moon to stop moving until the job was done completely. When we pick up such zeal and passion for God’s work, we will not be limited by the situation; instead, in any circumstances, even in impossibility, we’d somehow figure out and do God’s work wholeheartedly. When we have such a zealous spirit, we can even command the mountain in the way, You mountain, throw yourself into the Pacific Ocean, and it will obey us, and we will find ourselves doing God’s work freely without any hindrance. Let’s pursue God’s work with real zeal and passion. God seeks such people who serve him in spirit. 

 

At Joshua’s command, the sun and the moon stopped moving for one whole day. At Joshua’s command, the entire solar system halted for one whole day. So, Joshua and Israel soldiers killed all their enemies almost to a man; only a few reached their fortified cities. Meanwhile, the five kings of the Amorites were caught alive. When they were brought to him, Joshua summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings. So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks. That action was like Tarzan, after killing his arch-enemy, shouting, Ahhhhhhhhhh. Then, Joshua encouraged them. Look at chapter 10, verse 25. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Joshua said to them, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.

 

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. That’s what God had been telling him all this time during the whole conquest. Now, he understood this message very well. So, he was saying the same thing to the army commanders. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. Indeed, this is God’s message for all God’s people who struggle to serve God’s kingdom work. Why? It is because, only when we do so, we can serve God’s kingdom work continually, and as we do so, God comes to have a chance to intervene and do great things through us. There are many challenging moments, many discouraging moments. Sometimes, it seems that there are so many enemies who attack us. Sometimes, it seems that our campuses are like fortified cities with so many powerful defense weapons such as humanism, materialism, pleasure-seeking life, and heavy school load. Sometimes, we make mistakes and fail miserably. But God’s message for you is this: Do not be afraid, even if the enemies outnumber youand even if they have iron chariots; do not be discouraged,no matter what happens; do not be discouraged even if you make big mistakes. Instead, just be strong and very courageous. When we think about this message of God very carefully, we can see that God has great plans for us and that God is going to intervene into our situation and do great things in and through us. That’s why He asks us to go on continually. Only if we go on continually, God soon will do great things in and through us and grant us great victories. That’s why He keeps encouraging us, saying, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous.This is God’s message for you and for me today. This is God’s message we teach our sheep today. Soon God will give you great victory. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.  

 

Then, Joshua killed the five kings. After this, he and the entire army attacked the cities in the area one by one, and destroyed them all completely. Thus, all southern area of Canaan was conquered by Joshua and the Israel army in one campaign. Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

 

Third, Northern kingdoms conquered (11:1-12:24).Chapter 11 describes how Joshua and Israel people conquered the northern kingdoms in Canaan. Look at verses 1 through 5. At the news of how Israel people conquered the kingdoms in the southern area, the kings in the northern area were greatly alarmed. So, under the leadership of Jabin king of Hazor, all the kingdom in the northern area, about 20 of them, allied together; they came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots—a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. The Israelite army was already huge with about 600,000. Yet, the description for the northern kingdoms – a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore – suggests that it was much bigger than the Israelite army, maybe, 3 times, or 5 times beggar. All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom, north of Galilee, to fight against Israel. It was indeed a decisive battle. Again, God understood Joshua’s concern. So, He comforted Joshua, saying, Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them over to Israel, slain. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.

 

Here, God also gave him a unique instruction, “Hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.” These horses and chariots were advanced weapons in those days. Once they acquired them in the battle, they could use them against their enemies. But God asked them to hamstring the horses and burn the chariots, showing that, in the conquest, they must not rely on such things, but God alone. This is the principle in serving God’s kingdom work. When things do not go as they have expected in serving God’s work, many people think that the reason why they failed is because they have not used the right method. So, they look for the right method, thinking that with it, they will be successful in serving God’s kingdom work. It never works. Eventually, one person turning to God in repentance in Jesus is like that person selling everything he has, give to the poor, and then come to Jesus and follow him. Even if I may persuade someone perfectly with complete logic and reason, even if he understands everything, still it does not mean that he is willing to give up everything, even his life, for Jesus. Jesus confirmed that with man, it is impossible. Only when God works in that person’s heart and life, he or she turns to God in repentance, and lives as Jesus’ disciple. Only God can do his work. So, what method you use is secondary. The only thing is, we just be strong and courageous in doing God’s work, pursuing God’s mission wholeheartedly, entrusting all things in His hands. God wants us to rely on him alone.

 

So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, and God gave them into the hand of Israel. They defeated them and pursued them all the way until no survivors were left; they hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots. Then, they attacked all the cities in the northern area, and destroyed themone by one. Thus, Israel conquered the whole land of Canaan. Then, the land had rest from war.

 

At the beginning of the conquest, it seemed that the battle would go on so long as the Israelites captured the land city by city, kingdom by kingdom. But only two battles—the battle of Jericho and the battle of Ai—went that way; then, after those two battles, the war spread throughout the whole region; and in two more major military campaigns, Israel people captured the majority of the land of Canaan. The first two battles were like igniting the fire on dynamite; once it was ignited, soon there was a great explosion that burned the whole area. The five kingdoms of southern area were conquered, and then, all the kingdoms of northern area were conquered, and the job in major area was done. In chapter 12, we see the list of the defeated kings in the land of Canaan – total 33 kings in all - 2 kings in the east of the Jordan and 31 kings in the west of the Jordan. This is how God's kingdom grows. Once the foundation is laid, there will be a great explosion. That’s what we have been praying for. May God establish 200 disciples this year.    

 

How long did it take for Israel to complete the conquest? Look at chapter 11, verse 18. It reads: Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. The description in the book of Joshua is very short; it sounds like they finished the conquest in about one month. But it was not done in that way. Instead, it took a long time. The Bible scholars say that it took about 7 years. During this whole period of time, Joshua was in the conquest, planning, marching, and fighting, and doing this cycle over and over again. He relentlessly pursued the conquest, going from one city to the next, until the whole Canaan was conquered. What about, then, his family life?He forgot about it. What about his soldiers? They followed him wholeheartedly. What about the Trans-Jordan tribes?They were in the conquest, following Joshua all the time. The other nine and a half tribes, as they came back to Gilgal after the military campaign, at least could see their families, maybe, once a year, or twice a year, or even once every two or three years. But these Trans-Jordan tribes stayed in the military tents all the time during this whole conquest, forgetting about their family life. Indeed, under the leadership of Joshua, all these Israelite soldiers were one in heart, mind and spirit for the conquest. Joshua and the Israelite soldiers served the conquest wholeheartedlyAnd the conquest went very wonderfully. Today, if Joshua were here and serve the campus mission, how would God’s work go through him?I am sure that it would go greatly. Definitely, he would dedicate himself to the mission completely, maybe, staying on the campus all day long and all night long, passionately inviting students to Bible study and teaching them with all his heart and strength. Surely, God will be with him and do mighty works through him. When we think about this, we see that eventually what matters is whether we serve God’s work that way or not – the matter is not the students’ busy schedule, not their desire for success, not some people attacking us, but we serving God’s work with all our heart and strength. Let’s pray that in the year 2019, we may serve God’s work in the same way Joshua served the conquest. Let’s pray that many mighty generals like Joshua may rise among us this year.

 

One Word:Do Not Be Afraid Of Them; I Have Given Them Into Your Hand

Sunday, February 10, 2019

posted Feb 10, 2019, 6:25 PM by Site Administrator

ALL THE WORDS OF THE LAW

 

Joshua 7:1-8:35

Key Verses 8:34,35

 

Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the aliens who lived among them.

 

First, Unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction (7:1-26). In the previous passage, we learned about how the Israel people won the smashing victory and destroyed Jericho. When they marched around the city of Jericho for seven days with the ark of the covenant, at their shout, the wall collapsed and every man went up, straight in, and took the city. It was an amazing victory, a miracle. They experienced the power of God. Now they were confident that they would complete the conquest successfully. But right after this great victory, something unexpected happened. Look at verse 1. But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel. Originally, Joshua gave an order that the city and all that was in it were to be devoted to the Lord. He warned them to keep away from the devoted things – all the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron – because they were sacred to God and had to go into his treasury. It was the first battle, the representative of all the battles that would follow, like in the case of the firstfruits, or the firstborn son, and devoting the first battle to God meant devoting all the battles to God. Verse 24 of chapter 6 reads: Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into treasury of the Lord’s house. It seemed that the Israel people obeyed God’s command. But there was one person who did not obey – it was Achan, of the tribe of Judah. Because of him, God burned his anger against Israel. 

 

Joshua was not aware of it; he didn't know that God was angry with them. Instead, he was just busy for the conquest. Their next target was the city of Ai. Joshua sent men to spy out Ai. When they returned, they said, Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there. Their report tells us a lot about their mentality. There were 12,000 men and women in Ai. If we include children and youths under 20 years old, there might be about 30,000 or 40,000 people in it. Even though it was small compared to the size of Jericho, certainly, it would take more men than just 2 or 3 thousand soldiers to conquer this city – maybe, what they needed was at least 20,000 or even 30,000 soldiers to secure the victory. But after winning the victory in Jericho by the power of God, they were confident of the conquest, because God was with them. With this confidence, they took a very casual attitude toward the battles, saying, Yeah, God is with us; who can stand against God’s power? They simply said, By faith, we can conquer. At the first battle, they were dead serious; with a fearful and trembling heart, they followed God’s instructions so wholeheartedly. But now, they were not serious at all. They took victories for granted. Not only Achan had a problem, but also, generally most Israel soldiers had a problem. Joshua accepted their suggestion also. The result was not good at all. When about three thousand men went up, they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries, and struck them down on the slopes. God’s army was defeated! The Israel people, the instruments of God’s judgment were routed by the enemies! 

 

Even at the time of such great victory, sin crept into the camp of Israel; as a result, now God's army was defeated. God’s army, which God leads must be invincible, yet, this is how God's army can be destroyed. This is how children of God are destroyed by the enemies. The first man of God Adam was defeated by sin; in the time of Noah, the sons of God were defeated by the world because they let sin come into their community in the matter of their marriage. Later, the Israel people were destroyed completely in the promised land because of sin, and they were sent into exile. Many churches, even after serving great works of God, have been destroyed because they let sin come into their community. The Israel army was strong and powerful, even invincible when they loved God and followed God's instruction wholeheartedly. But when they sinned, when they let sin come into their community, they were defeated. Now we understand the direction God gave Joshua before the conquest, Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Ultimately, all Christians' fight is about obeying God's commands; ultimately, it is against sin. We must be very careful, especially in the time of victory, to obey God's words, to live according to God's will and purpose so that our church may function as God's mighty army continually; we must be alert in spirit so that we may not give sin a chance to come into our life and thereby, we can live a very successful and victorious life as Christians continually.

 

Now, the Israel people were in big trouble. They realized that they could be defeated in the battle, even if God were with them. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water. Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. Joshua cried out, Ah, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan…? O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth.

 

While Joshua was praying, God spoke to him, saying, Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Then, God explained to him the reason why they were defeated, saying, 11Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.

 

Achan took some goods from the battle of Jericho. It seemed a small thing, but God took it very seriously as sinning, stealing, lying, and violating his covenant - giving one's heart to something else than God is the violation of God's covenant. We must take this very seriously. When you give your heart to something other than God, when you give into the desire for the things of this world, you violate God’s covenant. We must not love anything in this world, but God alone. Also God didn't say, one person has sinned, or He has violated my covenant. Instead, he said, They have sinned; they have violated my covenant; they have stolen; they have lied,... indicating that it was not only the problem of one individual Achan, but also the problem of the whole community of Israel. When Jesus saw a demon-possessed boy, he said, O unbelieving and perverse generation,... He saw that the demon-possession of the boy was the product of that generation - all of them were responsible for his problem. We must have the sense of responsibility for the spirituality of our own community. As members of our church, we must protect our church community from sin all together so that none of us may sin; instead, we may grow in purity and innocence in Jesus Christ continually. We must watch out all together.  

 

Look at verse 12. Let's read this verse together:

 

12That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

 

Each expression is really strong and scary. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. Jesus once said, Give to God what is God's; give to Caesar what is Caesar's. It is really right to give to God what is God's; but if we don't give to God what is God's because we covet it and keep it for ourselves, then, we are made liable to destructionin the job matter, in the family matter, and in the conquest matter. Isaiah 40:30,31 reads: Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. These verses suggest that there are many life's challenges for both believers and non-believers. Even young people, full of potential, self-confidence and fighting spirit, collapse and never rise again because of life's challenges and difficulties. But those who put their hope in the Lord, believers, rise above all these challenges, soaring on wings like powerful eagles - that's Christian's victorious life; this is the very kind of life we all desire in God. Yes, when you put your hope in the Lord, you will soar on wings like eagles rising above all challenges and difficulties - your life will be victorious. But, when whatever is devoted to the Lord is among you, you cannot stand against any challenges and difficulties; instead, even at slightest hindrances, accusations, at the loss of job, or failure in your business, or some family problem, you just sink and collapse. There were only 12,000 men and women in the city of Ai, when Israel had 600,000 soldiers, but they were defeated, their hearts melted in fear and became like water. When whatever is devoted to the Lord is among us, we cannot stand against our enemies; when difficulties rise, we don't have any courage or guts or strength to stand against them; we get defeated and destroyed miserably. That's why we must not take anything that is already devoted to the Lord. God says, I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. The only way we can live a powerful life is to give to God what is God's, and do not take it from God. At that time, our conscience is free and we are free to love and pursue God that nothing can stand against us.

 

What are devoted to the LORD? What belongs to God, which we must give to God? One tenth offering belongs to God. It is not ours, but God’s, yet, in our possession – we must give it to God, because it is his. In Deuteronomy 26, we see Moses teaching the Israelites to recite a testimony to the Lord as they bring one tenth offering to the Levites, saying, I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. Firstfruits belong to God. God says in Exodus 34, The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons. No one is to appear before me empty-handed. (Exo 34:19,20) Why should they break the neck of the donkey when they do not redeem it? The donkey was already offered to God for his purpose; it was already sacred – holy. Such consecrated things must not be used for mundane purpose any longer. Such consecrated donkey had only two choices – either it is used for God alone all the days of its life, or if not, then, simply destroy it. This explains the instruction, You destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. The seventh day belongs to the Lord. It is a holy-day (Holiday), set apart to the LORD. It is the Lord's day, not ours. Our life belongs to God, because He purchased us from sin and Satan by paying the due price with his Son's precious life blood. We already offered our future to God; we already offered our marriage dream to God. Do not take anything from the devoted things, or you may be made liable to destruction. Remove the sacred portion from your house and heart, and you will be blessed.

 

Look at verse 13. God said to Joshua, Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it. This was God's message for his people Israel; this is God's message for all his people. This is how God’s people are defeated. When the devoted things are found among them, they cannot stand against their enemies; instead, they are defeated and destroyed. This then explains what we hear about – how once zealous Christians attending Bible institution with the desire to serve God become homo-sexuals, how their families are broken to pieces, why there are Christians who commit suicide, and even how the divorce rate is higher among Christians than unbelievers. When devoted things are found in your possessions, you are made liable to destruction. Remove the sacred things from your heart and life. Give to God what is God’s.

 

At this direction, early in the morning, Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was taken. The clans of Judah came forward, and he took the ZerahitesThe families of the Zerahites came forwardand Zimri was taken. Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan was taken. Joshua said to AchanMy son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.

 

Achan replied, It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath. Joshua found them in Achan’s tent. Then, Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. All the Israel people stoned them and burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, and the valley had been named the Valley of Achor ever since.

This episode is a great warning for all God’s people. When the Israel people had wholehearted devotion, when their hearts and minds were fully dedicated to God’s mission, they were powerful – the River yielded its way to them; the wall could not stand against them. But when they lost such spirit, became complacent and took casual attitude in serving God’s mission, they were weak and powerless. As this kind of spirit spread among them, there came out Achan who even coveted the things that belonged to God, and he caused the entire nation suffer. Now is not the time for us to think about acquiring wealth or fame, but the time we must give our hearts and life to God for his glorious world salvation purpose. Now is the time for us to fight the Lord’s battle wholeheartedly and expand God’s kingdom. Now is the time for us to pray, Your kingdom come. Let’s renew our hearts and refresh our spirit for God’s mission. 

 

SecondTake the whole army with you (8:1-29).Look at verse 1 of chapter 8. The Lord said to Joshua, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged… It was really a discouraging moment – the Israel people failed; they were defeated in the conquest. They were afraid; they lost courage. But God encouraged him, saying, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Sometimes, in serving God’s mission, we experience painful failures – sometimes, we fail in our school work; sometimes, we fail to serve God’s work properly because of our sins; when our sheep whom we have loved so much rebel against us and run away, we are so sad; sometimes, we feel like being knocked out. But God says, Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. God wants us to go on, despite our failures, despite our weaknesses; God wants us to keep on doing his work, because he is with us, and because we will really win. 

 

With this, God gave Joshua a new instruction. He said to him, Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai… Originally, the Israelites took the battle with Ai so casually, saying that they would not need to weary the whole army, but send two or three thousand. But God told Joshua to take the whole army. The city of Ai was very small; there were about 12,000 men and women in the city, but still God told Joshua to take the whole army, showing that they must do their best and fight the battle wholeheartedly. They must fight the Lord’s battle very sincerely and wholeheartedly – this is the principle in fighting the Lord’s battle. 

 

Look at verse 2. Let’s read this verse together:

 

You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.

 

At the first battle with Jericho, God commanded the Israel people to devote all things to Him. It was not because he needed any gold or silver, but because in truth, all things belonged to him, and the conquest in the promised land was for God. They should fight for the Lord, and not expect to take anything from it. Jesus said to his disciples the same thing, saying that whoever wants to save his soul will lose it, but whoever loses his life for him and the gospel will save it to eternity. But now from the second battle, God allowed them to take the plunder for themselves. In the war in those days, the plunder was like the soldiers' salary, and it was an important part of their service in the army. Once the principle was established firmly, God blessed them to take care of their practical needs.

 

With this, God said to them, Set an ambush behind the city. Here, we are shocked. This sounds so human, not like God’s style. God’s style is like when you come to the river that is flowing at its flood stage, God orders you, March!But the instruction, Set an ambush behind the city, sounds so human. Why did God need this kind of human tactics? Couldn’t he simply destroy Ai and give the city to the Israel people? Of course, he could! Why then, did he give this kind of tactic to Joshua? At the first battle, the Israel people did not do anything for the battle – they just marched around the city blowing the trumpets; God did all his work – he planned, proceeded and completed it. But now from the battle with Ai, God had the Israel people fight very practically. In the conquest, God did not fight by himself all the way, but He had his people fight – he had them engage into real fight – sword battle with their enemies face to face, using all possible means. God did not want his people weak and powerless like little children hiding behind their fathers; instead, he wanted them to be real men, well experienced in battle, courageous, bold, and very effective. He wanted them to be real warriors who were able to handle any situation, not fake people who always talk about the principle, saying, By faith, but not able to do anything in the real world. They learned the principle through the Jericho battle, and now it was the time for them to put what they learned into practice in serving the conquest, and through this practical battle, all of them would grow up as powerful generals for God’s kingdom work, skillful, wise, brave, and insightful. They would bring glory to God. How proud God will be when he says of them, These are my people.

 

Many people think that the demons will run away if they use the secret power formula, In the name of Jesus. They scream, You demons, come out of this man, I command you in the name of Jesus. But demons are not stupid. The seven sons of Sceva practiced this. One day, the demon answered them, Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you? Then the demon possessed man jumped on them and gave such a beating that these seven sons of Sceva ran out of the house naked and bleeding. (Acts 19:13-16) We must be real warriors for God’s kingdom. We must pioneer God’s kingdom on our campuses by practically participating in the Lord’s battle – fishing, finding one student who wants to study the Bible is a battle – it requires a lot of sweats and persistence; teaching students the Bible is a battle. As we serve them through one to one Bible studies, we somehow figure out how to help them properly. Each case, each student is different. Some students have serious family problem; some students are fearful; some students are like the Samaritan woman, thirsty for human love. Some students are like Levi, smart but so selfish and self-seeking; some students are like the paralytics, so lazy, irresponsive, and not being able to take care of themselves, but relying on others’ help and support all the time, full of complaints. Some people are like Nicodemus – they keep saying, How can it be possible? I don’t get it.They rely on their own righteousness in their religious life or moralistic life. As we serve them with the word of God one on one, often, we feel so limited; sometimes, we are defeated so miserably; sometimes, we are betrayed and ambushed; we develop deep wounds and scars; yet we somehow figure out how to overcome all these problems and lead them to Jesus successfully. With all these students in our hearts, we cry out to God for help; we prepare our Bible study notes carefully; as we keep doing this struggle, we come to understand the nature of the battle we are engaged in, and our understanding of human heart deepens and we learn how to handle the word of God correctly in doing God's work. Often, God opens our eyes to see how to attack the city and capture it – God’s secret mission plan comes to us, and suddenly we can see how to fight the battle. As we go through these battles continually, we grow to be well experienced and powerful soldiers for Christ – reliable and effective men and women of God, real warriors for God’s kingdom workwith huge spiritual biceps and triceps, maybe, with some warrior's scars here and there - dangerous weapons for God, like a sharpened sword and like polished arrows secretly conceals in his quiver. This is God’s vision for each of us.

 

After God’s instruction, Joshua got an idea of how to fight this battle. He set an ambush behind the city so carefully. Then, he himself together with the entire army went out for the battle with Ai, and when the enemies fought, he began to run away from them. Without knowing that it was Joshua’s tactic, the people of Ai chased after them, leaving the city open. The soldiers in ambush rose, entered the city, captured it and set it on fire. When the men of Ai saw the smoke of the city rising against the sky, they realized that they were deceived. But it was too late. Joshua turned back and attacked them, and the soldiers of ambush also came out of the city against them. Israel killed all the men of Ai, without leaving a survivor.

 

ThirdAll the words of the law (8:30-35). Look at verses 30 through 34. After winning the victory, Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord. It was according to Moses’ command. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses mentioned about this twice. In Deuteronomy 11:29, Moses said, When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. And in 27:2, he said, When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. Write on them all the words of this law… Joshua built an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it, they offered to God burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he had written. All Israel, aliens and citizens alike, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal. Then, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. We see the content of what Joshua read in the book of Deuteronomy, chapters 27 and 28 – the curses if they disobeyed God’s laws and the blessings if they obeyed God’s laws. While Joshua read each curse or each blessing, people responded saying, Amen. It was a solemn ceremony in which all the Israel people renewed their hearts’ decision to live according to God’s word as God’s covenant people. In the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey, they would not live as they desired, but according to God’s words as God’s covenant people. Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:15, See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. Now, through two battle experiences in the promised land, all of them learned that keeping God’s command was the matter of life and death. Joshua copied the words of God onto stones there, and they renewed the covenant with God.

 

Are you God’s people? Then, engrave God’s laws onto your hearts so that you will never forget them; keep them and cherish them. Are you God’s covenant people? Then, what are the terms and conditions of the covenant? Engrave them onto your hearts and keep them so that in all circumstances you may choose God’s will. Then, his promises, his visions will be fulfilled in your life.

 

One Word:Engrave God’s Laws Onto Your Hearts

 

 

1-10 of 29