Today Pastor Choi concludes his series on the heart: we are to love the LORD God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might. May God approve us like He did King David whose heart was wholly devoted to the LORD.
Manahawkin United Methodist Church
Today Pastor Choi concludes his series on the heart: we are to love the LORD God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might. May God approve us like He did King David whose heart was wholly devoted to the LORD.
Today Pastor Choi concludes his sermon series on the prayers that Lord Jesus has actually said. He focuses on the last word of the last sayings of Jesus: Father, into Your hands, I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).
May 5, 2016 10 a.m. – 12 noon
Manahawkin United Methodist Church
Together we stand in the gap before God Almighty for our land.
Pastor Choi talks about Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane the night before crucifixion. He prayed on His knees, for God’s will to be done not His, and commanded His disciples to keep watch so as not to fall into temptation.
THE MANAHAWKIN UNITED METHODIST CHURCH PRESENTS A CANTATA BASED ON THE LORD’S PRAYER
April 24 – 4:00 PM
PERFORMED BY THE COMBINED METHODIST CHOIRS OF MANAHAWKIN, BEACH HAVEN TERRACE AND KYNET, BEACH HAVEN
Music Director Vel Gamble
DENNIS LINDE PIANO SOLOIST
THE MANAHAWKIN YOUTH GROUP WILL PROVIDE AN ITALIAN
DINNER FOLLOWING THE CANTATA (FREE WILL DONATION)
Today Pastor Choi continues his series on the Lord’s Prayers. He points out that Christ’s prayers were relational, personal, and grateful (full of gratitude).
Free Washer/Dryer Service is coming to town on April 28 sponsored by Manahawkin United Methodist Church.
Today Pastor Choi talks about three characteristics of Jesus’ prayer: intentional, habitual, and alone with God. The sermon exhorts the congregation to cultivate the habit of spending time alone with God in prayer throughout the year.
Pastor Choi invites the congregation to examine the biblical accounts on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Where has the body of Jesus gone?” Two theories: one by the Christian community that He is risen indeed. The other theory by the chief priests and the elders that the disciples of Jesus stole away the body of Jesus, that’s why the tomb was empty.
Which theory do you believe? The sermon urges the congregation to make up their minds.
Pastor Choi talks about Jesus the humble king who fulfilled the prophecies on Himself by entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The servant King demonstrated that He came not to be served but to serve and give His life as ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Today Pastor Choi concludes his sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. He covers three areas of temptation: definition, nature, and ways to overcome temptations.
Today Pastor Choi continues his series on the Lord’s Prayer: Forgiveness. He explains the biblical understanding of forgiveness, expounds on the nature of forgiveness, and offers four practical reasons why we should forgive each other.
Pastor Choi talks about three characteristics of our “daily bread.” First, it is our daily “necessities” not daily “luxuries” or “desires.” Secondly, daily bread means daily trust in the Lord. Thirdly, it also means our daily “bread of Heaven” the Word of God.
Today Pastor Choi focuses on two sentences in the Lord’s Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done on Earth as It Is in Heaven. He explains that we the believers in Christ are living in the times close to Christ’s coming and that we are called to work as God’s Kingdom agents to reclaim God’s Kingdom here on earth one individual, one family, and one community at a time.
Today Pastor Choi talks about the name of the Lord: The Lord commands everyone to revere, esteem, honor, fear and stand in awe before His name. Why should we care about His name? Because He does care about His name. Because He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. And, because He will hold accountable those who don’t. This attitude of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is the foundation of every answered prayer.
For the next six Sundays, Pastor Choi is going to do a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. Today, part 1 of 6, he focuses on the beginning sentence of the prayer: Our Father in heaven. The sermon emphasizes on prayer as a relationship and urges God’s people to approach their heavenly Father with boldness.
The following is a summary of the sermon:
Our Father in Heaven: the Lord’s Prayer—part 1 of 6
Matthew 6:9-13 King James Version (KJV)
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
A Bible trivia: Did you know that you can say a beautiful prayer without the mentioning of ‘God?’ Not even once? Look at today’s text.
For the next six Sundays, we are going to learn about a prayer, commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer that the Lord Jesus has taught us to pray.
This morning, part 1 of 6, let’s think about how we start our prayer by looking into how Jesus did. He began the prayer with a sentence: Our Father which art in heaven. In short, ‘Our Father in Heaven.’
Our Father: most of us would start our prayers with either ‘O, Lord,’ or ‘Our God’ instead of ‘Our Father.’ In fact, that’s how, I believe, the disciples of Jesus would’ve begun their prayers, too. So, when Jesus taught them to call God ‘Our Father,’ it must have shocked them. Jesus must have appeared to them very unconventional, even radical.
A little bit of information on how radical Jesus was in His time. In those days, ordinary Jews would not dare to even think about calling God ‘Father.’ Up until that time, for over 2000 years, they often called their human ancestors ‘father(s)’ such as Abraham (Matthew 3:9, John 8:41), Isaac (Romans 9:10), Jacob (John 4:12), or David (Luke 1:32, Mark 11:10). They also would call the LORD ‘God of our fathers,’ but seldom ‘Our Father.’ Never call God the Father, they were strictly reminded by their teachers, because it makes you either too high above or too close to God. Know your place: you’re human. He is divine. Actually, calling God ‘Father’ in such an affectionate term as Jesus did was considered by the religious leaders a blasphemy against God—that deserves the penalty of death by stones.
I looked up in the Old Testament to find out how often the Israelites called God Father: three times. The first one who ever possibly called God his Father was King David. There’s no actual evidence that David did: rather it was God who gave David a permission to call Him thus: He (David) shall cry unto me (God), Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation (Psalm 89: 26, KJV). Prophet Isaiah once prayed to God: For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us. And Israel does not recognize us. You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is Your name (Isaiah 63:16, NASB). Another time Prophet Malachi called God Father. He was lamenting the fact that people of God treacherously dealt with each other: Do we not all have one Father? Has not one God created us? (Malachi 2:10). Besides these instances, no one in the entire Old Testament ever called God Father. The people of God would restrain themselves from calling God their Father. They showed the utmost respect when it comes down to the name of God.
Well, that tradition was about to change when Jesus instructed His disciples to start their prayer calling God ‘Our Father.’ They might have thought to themselves, Rabbi, You are intimate with Him that You can call Him Abba (Mark 14:36) alright. But, we? No way.
The best part of prayer and the power of prayer lie right there in two words: Our Father. It reminds me that prayer is not a religion (cf. the older son in Luke 15:29). It is a relationship (cf. the younger son in Luke 15:12, 18, 21). You begin the prayer in the right status before God remembering who God is, who you are, and to whom you pray: He is your father (holy and righteous—John 17:11, 25), you are His child, and you are praying to your Father in heaven! By instructing His disciples (and us) to start calling God ‘Our Father,’ Jesus elevated their (and our) status from a sinner to a saint: from a commoner to a royal child of God, and from a complete stranger to God’s adopted child. It gets even better. Later on, after His resurrection, Jesus ultimately promoted us to the same status as His: My Father Your Father, My God Your God (John 20:17). From then on, every writer of the New Testament was inspired and instructed by the Spirit of God to boldly call God the Father, Abba (the most affectionate term). E.g. Philip called God Father (John 14:8). Peter did, too (Acts 2:33). Paul called God Abba (Galatians 4:6). We the believers in Christ today also call Abba Father because we are His adopted children: For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (Romans 8:15, KJV). Jesus called His Father Abba all the time: in good times (John 11:45) and in the moment of distress (Mark 14:36) (e.g. Luke 2:49— the 12 year-old Jesus “In My Father’s House.” Later, Jesus called God ‘My Father’ over a hundred times in the Gospel according to John alone). So, He called His Father Abba all the time. So did His disciples. So do we God’s adopted children in Christ. In good times and bad times, we call Him Abba Father. All the time. In prayer.
One more thing: all are invited to be God’s child but not all of them become a child of God; each one must believe in Jesus to be so. Anyone can recite the Lord’s Prayer and call God Abba Father until his face is blue. Yet, it doesn’t automatically turn him into God’s child. Faith in Jesus does. For instance, Jesus said to some of the Jews your father is the devil (John 8:44) when they claimed that their father is God. Why did Jesus call them the children of the devil? Not because they didn’t believe in God. Yes, they did. What, then? But because they rejected Jesus and refused to acknowledge Him as the Messiah (John 8:45). The same thing goes with anyone today that refuses to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Once again: what makes a person child of God? Listen to Jesus out of His own mouth: if you believe that I came from the Father and if you love Me by keeping My commandments (John 16:27, 14:21). If a person fails this test, s/he is not a child of God.
In Heaven: What is Heaven? Simply put, it is the eternal home of God and the saints in Christ. It is the final destination that God has prepared for us (Hebrews 11:16). It is the counterpart of Hell. God is the architect and builder of Heaven (Hebrews 11:10). It is the kingdom where He is the King (Matthew 5:16), and we His children are citizens therein (Philippians 3:20). We will reign with Christ for eternity (Revelation 22:5). Of course, angels will be with us.
Who enters Heaven? Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27, 22:14). Only those who are born again (John 3, esp. v. 15). Nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood (Revelation 21:27). I will elaborate on this later.
Now, here’s the list of the things we will see in Heaven. First, the tree of life that will bear twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month, and its leaves will heal the nations (Revelation 22:2). Next, we will have the New Jerusalem, the holy city that is made of precious stones (its foundations and walls) and whose streets are made of pure gold (Revelation 21:18-21). It will have twelve gates. Also, there will be the river of the water of life that flows from the throne of God through the middle of the street of the city (Revelation 22:1-2).
What about the things we won’t see in Heaven? First of all, there will be no sea, no light of lamp (no electricity), no sun or moon (God is the light), and there will be no night (Revelation 22:5). There will be no Temple, because God will be the Temple (Revelation 21:22). There will be no closed gates. No curse (Revelation 22:3), no tears, no death, no sorrow, no crying or pain will be there, either (Revelation 21:1-4). No more Satan. No more devils or evil spirits. And, there will be no people of low character (the Bible calls them “dogs”–cf. Philippians 3:2), no cowards, no sorcerers, no fornicators, no murderers, no idolaters, and no liars (Revelation 21:8, 22:15).
Now, a word of caution. Some of us have heard or read about Heaven through different sources (books, tapes, personal experiences, and so on). You must test all those stories and testimonies against the Bible. If they are in agreement with the Bible, then keep them. If not, don’t take them as truth, because you don’t want to establish your faith on something that is not absolutely true or attested against God’s Word. Even Paul the Apostle who went to the third Heaven and tasted the life in Paradise wouldn’t elaborate much on that. Rather, he simply said that the glory in Heaven is so great that no human sufferings are worth comparing with that (Romans 8:18). One thing is for sure: Heaven is the place worth being in for eternity.
The real question is whether we will be there or not, right? There is only one condition we must satisfy: Our sins to be washed with Jesus’ blood (Revelation 22:14). That enters our names to be written in the Book of Life. That means to be born again. That means, to live a life holy and righteous before God. That means, we sincerely believe Jesus as our Savior and obey Him as our Lord. Be careful here. Believing in Jesus never means a mere intellectual agreement with what Jesus has done on the cross. Even the evil spirits believe in God (James 2:19). Rather, faith in Christ must include sincere repentance of your sins living a life worthy of God’s name and keeping God’s commandments (Matthew 7:21). It would be very foolish of us to assume that God will get us into Heaven with our words of confession in Jesus alone when we never do what He commands us to do in our daily lives. Those who believe in Jesus with words only will be disillusioned and sore disappointed in the Last Day.
Prayer is not a religion. It is a relationship. You speak with your Heavenly Father. So, begin every prayer with ‘Our Father in Heaven’: He is your loving Father and you’re His child. He is delighted to see you in prayer and have you in Heaven forever with Him. Amen.
Today we celebrated Sunday School Sunday. All the Sunday School children and teachers participated in the worship services. Pauline McShea the teacher preached a message on how we started our faith journey and where we are going.
This year the saints at Manahawkin are participating in a Prayer Challenge using a prayer journal. During the 40 days, each one records specific prayer requests in the journal and keeps track of the prayers: the date started, what the prayer is about, date answered and how it was answered. Want to participate? Click here to download the form of prayer journal and start praying. May the Lord bless you in your daily prayers!
Today Pastor Choi continues his sermon series on ‘heart’—part 2 of 3: how to take care of your heart. After a brief recap of the last Sunday’s message, he points out three excellent ways to watch over the heart: 1. Screen out all negative and destructive thoughts. 2. Store up good and godly thoughts beginning with God’s Word—the Word of Life. 3. Stay on whatever is noble and honorable. By doing so, we will have the life God intends us to have.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Watch Over Your Heart
Proverbs 4:23 New American Standard Bible
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
This morning I will continue my sermon series on heart- part 2 of 3: how to take care of our heart.
Recap of the Last Week’s Sermon
Today’s verse expounded:
The first half of today’s verse reads: “Watch over your heart with all diligence.” The literal translation of the original Hebrew is: Above all guarding, guard your heart.
Definition of “to guard”: “to protect property, places, or people from attack or danger” (Oxford Dictionary). We all protect something or some people from attack or danger. A question: what do you guard? Life, health, wealth, house, bank accounts, investment portfolios, family, jobs, image, identity, and so forth. One thing is for sure: none of us guard anything worthless. We only guard something precious, valuable, and essential. So, out of all things worthy of our guarding, which one does God command us to guard most? The heart. Our heart is the number one priority to protect. Guard it fiercely.
Why the heart?
The second sentence of today’s text reveals the reason why we must guard our heart above all things. Once again the English translation reads: For from it (heart) flow the springs of life. The literal translation of the same sentence is this: For from it come out the sources of life. All things of life stem from your heart.
Let me elaborate a little more on ‘life’ here. The life here means more than just daily survival. It is the life meaningful. It is the life fulfilling. It’s the life of contentment. It’s the life God intends us to enjoy. In fact, Jesus wants us to have that life—and have it abundantly (John 10:10). It’s the life that consists of “earthly felicity combined with spiritual blessedness” (The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Cesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, p. 313). To ‘life’ here, the Septuagint (LXX) Bible renders a unique Greek word ‘zoe’ instead of ‘bios.’ In other words, things that matter most in life originate from our heart. The essential elements of the blessed life come out of our heart. And, whatever comes out of our heart even determines our final destination. That’s how crucial our heart is in life. So, if you want to live a life satisfactory and meaningful, and if you want to live a life with purpose and destination, and if you want to secure your life eternal, then learn to take good care of your heart.
Once again, understand your identity: You are the watchman. You are the guardian of your heart. Your job is to keep your heart pure, innocent, and blameless in the sight of God until Christ comes (Philippians 1:10). So, based on these understandings, I am going to introduce three ways to take a good care of your heart. Let’s not forget. The entire well-being of your heart and the quality of your life are determined by your desire, discipline, and diligence.
Three things we can do for our hearts: Screen out, Store up, and Stay on.
Screen out. You are on guard duty for life on behalf of your heart: to prevent the enemy infiltration. E.g. The army uses the daily password. Whoever says the correct password may pass, whoever doesn’t, the guard can shoot. Same goes with our guard duty for the heart. For any thought trying to enter the heart, ask the password which is always the same: are you in line with God’s will? If so, enter. If not, stop. Never allow anything bad to enter your heart: only good things.
God commands us to take captive every thought and bring it to Christ. Listen: “… we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB). We must learn to screen out thoughts and feelings especially those that are negative and destructive. Some of us are in the habit of following whatever our heart says. Follow your heart, they say. However, beware: the same heart can deceive us. In Jeremiah 17:9, God says, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” I would rather let God’s Word guide me not my own feelings. E.g. 1. “I cannot forgive my brother.”— Remember the Lord’s Prayer. E.g. 2. A young couple wants a divorce due to no more feelings of love to each other.—Marriage is a commitment. Let no one separate what God has joined (Matthew 19:6). E.g. 3. Depressive / Suicidal thoughts. Check out the source of every destructive thought. Satan can prompt such a thought in your heart (John 13:2). Give no opportunity to the devil (Ephesians 4:27). Bring every thought and feeling under the control of Christ. Filter it. Test it against God’s Word. E.g. Practice the screening on TV and movies you watch. Pray before you watch. Place guards on your eye-gate and ear-gate. Stay disciplined on it. Payoff will be huge.
Store up. There are many good things we can store up in our hearts; good memories, good music, good stories, good images, good thoughts, and so forth. But, first and foremost, begin with God’s Word the Good Book. Why? Because it is the Word of life (1 John 1:1). It gives you peace. It restores your health (Proverbs 4:22). It is essential for your eternal life, too. Do you love God? Then, you will love and cherish His Word. It would be an oxymoron if you say, “I love God, yet I never open the Bible.” It would be equally contradictory if you say, “I care for my soul, yet I never read the Bible.” Why? Because God’s Word is the food for your soul, and if you don’t feed your soul with God’s Word, your soul will starve to death. Never believe in the devil’s lie that the Bible is too difficult to understand. He does everything to keep you from getting into God’s Word for your salvation. You need God’s Word for your eternal life. You need God’s Word to protect your heart (Matthew 15:19). Listen to the Psalmist: 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. 11 Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against You (Psalm 119:9, 11, NASB).
Stay on good and godly thoughts: 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8, NASB). Whatever comes into our hearts, it stays in our hearts and it is extremely hard to remove it. That’s why we need to make every effort to put godly things in our hearts in the first place as a daily positive reinforcement. Then, we keep on dwelling on such things all the time. Chew on them, sit on them, and meditate on them daily. You will have a blessed life.
Above all guarding, guard your heart: screen out all bad thoughts. Next, store up God’s word diligently; fill up your heart with whatever is honorable and noble. Finally, stay on them daily. Then, you will enjoy the life abundantly in Christ. Amen.
Today Pastor Choi talks about the human heart. Pointing out that the human heart is a battle-ground between God and the devil who vie for our worship, devotion, and affection, Pastor Choi exhorts the people of God to take good care of their hearts by asking for God’s help.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
What is the Heart?
Jeremiah 17:9 New American Standard Bible
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
Recently, after 25 years in ministry, I wanted to have a deeper understanding on one subject: the heart. Not that I wanted to be a cardiologist or a psychologist. It seems to me that everything in our life (both good and bad) stems from the heart such as kindness, love, greed, and even hate. Heart matters in every relationship with God and with people. So, this is how I reasoned myself: the better understanding of the heart, the better understanding of myself and others, and the better relationships with God and with each other. So I started my study on the heart.
It still has a long way to go before I can even say that I understand the human heart. This morning, you are about to hear my preliminary study on the subject. In fact, I am going to do a three-part series in the next three Sundays. I hope and pray that the series will lead us to a better understanding, better care of our hearts, and better relationships. Here’s part 1 of 3: what is the heart?
Definition of the Heart
Let me begin with what I mean by the heart. There are three definitions of the heart: medical, poetic/artistic, and scriptural.
This morning I am going to strictly focus on the scriptural sense of heart: the heart as the innermost seat of emotion, thoughts, will, and appetites. Our western mindset is tuned to the separation of heart and mind (or heart and head) due to the Platonic distinction. Please note here that I make no distinction between heart/emotion and mind/intellect, because the Scriptures don’t make a clear-cut distinction between emotion and intellect. In fact, the Ancient Hebrews believed that all the characteristics of modern-day “heart and mind” were interconnected and originated from one entity, not two, and they called them “heart.” So, will I. When I say “the heart,” it covers both the mind and emotions.
Three Kinds of Heart
The Bible talks about three kinds of heart.
The Heart of God
I am so thankful that God too has the heart. God’s heart deserves a full sermon for another time. This is how much I will tell you, though. Out of His heart, God created the heavens and the earth (intellect). Out of His heart, He has chosen us to be His children (will). Out of His heart, He loves us unconditionally (emotion). To Him each soul is equally valuable, sinners and saints alike (e.g. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous—Matthew 5:45). He never gives up on anyone unless they reject Him first. In fact, His loving kindness, generosity, and mercy endure forever! They blow us away! All out of His loving heart! Isn’t it wonderful that we worship and belong to such a God with a loving heart?
The Heart of Man
When God created Adam and Eve in His image and likeness, He has given them the heart that shared the characteristics of God’s heart; pure and innocent, loving, kind, creative, and no sign or touch of evil at all. However, when they disobeyed God, sin came in and that changed everything.
In fact, sin corrupted the human heart to the core and forever. For instance, during Noah’s time, God was deeply grieved with the constant evil thoughts of humans to the point where He regretted that He had created humans. He wanted a new start. So, through the Great Flood, He wiped humanity off from the surface of the earth except for Noah’s eight. However, Noah’s eight still had the old heart—still depraved as before. Thousands of years later, God described the condition of the human heart to prophet Jeremiah as follows: the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9).
Almost three millennia passed since prophet Jeremiah; in the 21st century, our heart still is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Wouldn’t you agree?
The Heart of Beasts
The reference on the heart of beasts is also found in the Bible; only once. The heart of beasts demonstrates basic instincts of survival: no reason, no ability to create, no conscience, or no reverence of life. It only knows daily survival among prey and predators. One man actually experienced and had it for seven years (Daniel 4:32). E.g.
21 He [King Nebuchadnezzar] was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes (Daniel 5:21).
Once again, my focus will be on the human heart.
What’s Happening in the Heart?
– God sows the Word of God in the heart (Luke 8:11).
– The devil snatches away the Word sown in the heart (Luke 8:12).
What Each Party Can Do to Our Heart
– We can humble ourselves and incline our hearts to God.
– We can watch over our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23).
– We can also neglect the care of our heart and let it be defiled: See what happens to the heart that is neglected, that is not properly cared after or not protected from the devil. Listen to Jesus in Mark 7.
– From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deed of coveting and wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man (Mark 7:21-23).
The good news is this: God can help us to remove evil/unclean/destructive/negative thoughts. He also can fill our hearts with good/godly thoughts. He can purify and strengthen our hearts as well. All of these would He do only upon our invitation and requests. Without our desire to keep our hearts pure and clean, and without our invitation, God wouldn’t do it. We must ask for His help from the heart.
We all have a job to do: to take good care of our heart. Where do we start? Ask God for His help today. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit will help you. Next week, we will think about some practical ways to take care of our heart. Let us pray.
Today Pastor Choi designates 2016 to be the Year of Prayer. Beginning with the definition of prayer, he covers basic characteristics of prayer. He exhorts the people of God to call unto God throughout the year so that they may undeniably experience the living God who answers their prayers.
The following is a summary of the sermon:
2016: the Year of Prayer
Jeremiah 33:3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
‘Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’
The top ten most googled New Year’s Resolutions in 2015: the top ten most searched “how-to” questions in the U.S. during the week before and the week after New Year’s Day 2015:
1. how to get rid of stress
2. how to make kale chips
3. how much water should I drink to lose weight
4. how to write a resignation letter
5. how to cook lentils
6. how to cook cabbage
7. how to write a letter of recommendation
8. how to cook collard greens
9. how to steam broccoli
10. how to crochet a beanie (Olivia B. Waxman, Here Are the Most Googled New Year’s Resolutions –http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/here-are-the-most-googled-new-year%e2%80%99s-resolutions/ar-BBo3D9a?ocid=spartanntp)
Well, one thing is for sure: people want to get rid of stress. Let me tell you the best answer to that quest: prayer. Let’s think about prayer this morning.
I don’t exactly remember how my prayer life has started. Neither can I recall when I first started praying to the Heavenly Father or who taught me to pray. I never took a course on prayer such as “Prayer 101: Introduction to Prayer,” either. Yet, sometime in high school, I started praying to God.
Prayer is the breathing of our soul.
Let me define what prayer is before I go further.
Oxford Dictionary defines prayer as follows: a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.
Here’s my own definition: prayer is a series of thoughts or words, either spoken or unspoken, directed to God on behalf of others or for self.
Another definition: prayer is the breathing of our soul to God.
Whatever definition you follow, one thing is for sure: prayer is an activity of our soul. Prayer is to our soul as breathing to our body. Without it, our soul perishes. With it, our soul thrives.
We learn to pray by doing it, not by studying about it.
If someone asks you what breathing is, you may explain that it is ‘the process of taking air into and expelling it from the lungs’ (Oxford Dictionary). But, anyone can breathe in and out with no understanding on the lungs; where they are located in our body and what they do, right? In fact, we naturally breathe in and out; we never stop breathing until we die. Same thing goes with our prayer. When we first confess that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord, our spirit becomes alive and our soul begins to breathe, that is, pray. From that day on, our new born soul is to pray to God without ceasing.
You don’t need a sermon or training to start praying. You just pray like a new born baby breathes from the moment of birth without training. You learn as you go.
Some of us are skeptical about prayer when it comes down to actual praying. However, don’t say that prayer doesn’t work until you try it. E.g. When I first started praying, I was not 100% sure about the effectiveness of prayer. In fact, I wondered about the practicality of prayer: whether it works or not; and if so, how exactly God answers prayers. So, one year in college, I decided to experiment on prayer. I started a prayer journal where I recorded all my prayer requests: the date I started praying, the contents of prayer, the date it was answered, and how it was answered. I kept journaling for the next six months. At the end of the sixth month, I found 96 entries in the journal. To my great surprise, I found every single one of them answered in one of the following ways: YES (majority). NO (some). WAIT (a few). That’s how I discovered that prayer is real, not just a psychological hypnosis to comfort myself (note: prayer is not eastern style of meditation, either).
Fasting is a prayer that works ‘fast.’
Some of you heard about fasting. What is fasting? It is more than skipping meals. Fasting is an intense prayer. It is a prayer that works ‘fast.’ There came the time when I did some serious prayers with fasting, especially during my major crises in life. Pouring my soul in anguish, I would cry out onto the Lord to deliver me from my troubles. The Almighty God surely listened and answered my humble pleas in the ways beyond my imagination. Praise God! If you haven’t tried fasting, try it. It works really well and fast.
God speaks to us in the ways that we understand.
I must point out that prayer is a two way communication: we speak to God and God speaks to us. Most of us consider prayer, however, as one way street: we are good at telling God our shopping list but poor at listening to God.
So, how do we listen to God? God uses many different ways to speak to us: to some, through visions and dreams. To others, through audible voices of angels. To more others, through the open doors and closed doors. And, through the Scripture passages, too. No matter which way God communicates with us, let us not forget: He speaks to us in the ways that we can clearly understand (this one requires some training. I will talk about this later; how to discern His voice).
One of the ways that God speaks to me in prayer is reasoning: through questions He leads me to come to my own conclusion. Whenever He does that, I find Him very gentle and kind, patiently listening to my worries and frustrations. Then, He leads me through reasoning to His assurance that eventually takes away my worries.
The result of Prayer: peace and assurance
After prayer, we come out of God’s Throne Room with the assurance that He is in control, faithful, and alive in our lives. He is not the God who stays aloof from our daily challenges and struggles. Rather, He is deeply involved in our daily affairs. No wonder our God is Immanuel (‘with-us-God’). E.g. Philippians 4:6-7: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
As your pastor, I designate this year “the year of prayer.” Let’s call it: the year of P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens).
This year I urge all of us to get on our knees to fulfill God’s will for us.
This year let us refuse to sit in the darkness or despair.
This year let us not stop praying until we see God’s promises fulfilled.
This year let us not stop praying until we undeniably experience the Living God.
This year let us press on and cry unto the Lord to see how He answers us.
This year let us claim the abundant life that Christ has promised to us.
This year let us offer our thanks to God for all the answers to our prayers.
This year let us praise His name among us.
This year let us declare to everyone that God is alive.
This year let us walk with God in prayer who leads us in victory.
Let us pray.
In loving memory of Emily Eisamann, MUMC once again sponsors blood drive at our church on Tuesday, January 4, 1-5 p.m. We appreciate all the volunteers and donors.
The Year of Prayer
This year,2016, has been designated the Year of Prayer so the people of Manahawkin UMC will cultivate the habit of getting on their knees in prayer and undeniably experience the living God in their lives. Pastor Choi will preach on prayer periodically throughout the year to encourage God’s people to stay on prayer.
Today Pastor Choi takes a moment to reflect on the goal of 2015 for Manahawkin Congregation: the Year of Knowing Jesus. Out of many lessons he learned through the year, he shares the following three: first, love the Lord with a pure heart. Next, do everything for the glory of God and His pleasure (I Corinthians 10:31). Thirdly, brighten the corner where you are.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Reflections on 2015
Today we have the cantata, so my message will be brief.
First of all, as pastor of this congregation, I would like to thank God for His faithfulness. He has blessed us to finish this year strong, therefore, let us praise our Heavenly Father who sustained us both physically and spiritually. I also thank all of you for loving the Lord and being faithful to His ministry through your presence, gifts, and talents.
I’d like to take a moment to reflect on our goal of 2015—“the year of knowing Jesus.” I hope and pray that all of us have made progress in our faith and practice.
Personally, this year was one of the most productive years in terms of growing spiritually. I have discovered Jesus in new and refreshing ways that, in turn, energized my walk with the Lord.
I’ve made over 30 discoveries throughout the year in knowing Jesus and they can be squeezed down to the following three:
First, love the Lord with a pure heart. The Lord taught me to check on my motive why I wanted to know Jesus on a deeper level in the first place: it is never for selfish gains such as ‘doing great wonders and miracles’ or ‘making our church ten times bigger than it is now.’ Rather, He wants me to know, enjoy, and love Him with a pure motive for the sake of relationship not for the benefits thereof. E.g. In any healthy and thriving relationship, no one looks for what’s in it for them first; rather, they love each other first, and enjoy the benefits thereafter.
Next, do everything for God’s glory and His pleasure (1 Corinthians 10:31). Often times, I find myself keeping God’s commands for fear factors such as ‘to avoid the consequences of sins’ or ‘not to fall into temptations.’ The Lord wants me to change that attitude: keep His word, not because I’m afraid if I don’t, but because I love Him. E.g. English sentence: I don’t have to, but I love to. From now on, I will keep His Word not because I have to, but because I love Jesus (John 14:23). Jesus also reminds me of this: whenever I keep His Word, it pleases Him. E.g. Eric Liddell “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Let us do everything, from reading the Bible to prayer, from worship to our words, for His pleasure. When He is pleased, it makes us pleased in turn.
Thirdly, brighten the corner where you are. I realize more and more that the Lord doesn’t expect me to save the entire world (it is the job for Jesus). Rather, He expects me to brighten the corner where I am and to blossom where I am planted. E.g. A young man in 1930s wanted to liberate Korea from Japanese occupation by joining the armed resistance. His mentor’s advice was to stay home instead and brighten the corner where he was. What matters most in the sight of the Lord is: not how many great achievements we make but how much we love people around us with Christ-like love. “Fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22, NASB).
2015 is almost over. However, knowing Jesus doesn’t stop on December 31. It is an ongoing process for us. Let us keep growing in His love, knowledge, insight so that we may test and know what matters most and stay pure and blameless until Christ comes (Philippians 1:9-11). Amen.
Today Pastor Choi talks about true joy and where we can find it: in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sharing stories of three believers in Christ who found true joy in the Lord, he exhorts the believers to do the same by fixing their eyes on Jesus the true source of joy and light in the world.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Philippians 4:4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Have you been in the mall lately shopping? Have you ever closely observed people’s faces? Were they all happy, beaming, or joyous? Or, rather, empty, tired, and even grumpy? I’ve seen more weary faces than merry ones in this season of joy.
During this season of Christmas, we hear and speak a lot about joy: Christmas joy, joy to the world, and so forth. One question arises in my mind: where’s the joy in this season of joy? What has gone wrong in our celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ? Although joy should’ve been the central theme of the season, some of us find burden in our hearts instead. Some folks even suffer from ‘holiday blues.’ Sure, we can find fault with commercialism for the loss of our joy. Yes, we can also blame our kids for their unreasonable requests of very expensive toys. Yet, seriously, what happened to our joy? How can we find true joy and where should we look for it? That’s the topic this morning.
Where can we find joy? Would you believe if I said that you can find joy in the midst of cancer treatments? Would you say amen if I said that you can find joy even in a prison cell? Would you agree if I said that you can find joy even in your disabilities?
I am going to tell you stories of three individuals who found their joys in the midst of hardships. After their stories, I will briefly speak about the common thread that binds them together.
First, please come and meet a sister in Christ. I will leave her unnamed. I will simply say she was one of my parishioners some years ago in Michigan. She was very ill at that time, because she had cancer and had been through a series of chemotherapy. As a result, she lost all her hair and no physical strength was left in her body. Believe me: none of us wants to be in such a state. One day I met with her to pray for her healing and strength. Humanly speaking, she had nothing to be joyful about. However, that day, on her face I saw something priceless and heavenly: a smile. In fact, I haven’t seen such a beautiful smile on anyone’s face in my life. It left such an indelible impression on my mind that I wondered where this kind of smile / joy came from. You simply cannot buy such a smile with money for sure. Her smile definitely didn’t come from her circumstances, either. Yet, I witnessed it.
Next, come and meet a brother in Christ who found a similar joy in a place where we would least expect to find it: in prison. His name is Paul a.k.a. the Apostle. In today’s passage, he says to us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I will say rejoice!”
Now, please consider the circumstances in which he wrote his letter. He wasn’t vacationing in Hawaii basking in the sun. Rather, he was sitting in a dark and damp dungeon in Rome. He was a prisoner for Christ. Mind you that he was not enjoying benefits of modern prison such as TV, internet, library, three square meals, medical benefits, exercise room, and so forth. As far as his sentence was concerned, he had no hope of release. Why? Because he was on death row. He was waiting for his last day on earth. Yet, writing this letter with his own hands to the believers in Philippi, he commanded them twice to rejoice in the Lord. How can a person on death row encourage the people outside to rejoice always?
Have you ever visited with a man who was terminally ill? You go there to comfort him. Yet, instead of comforting, you come out being comforted by him. The same thing was true with Paul and the Philippian believers. Humanly speaking, Paul was the one who needed to be comforted big time by the believers outside, because he was in prison with no hope of clemency, waiting to be executed. The saints in Philippi, on the other hand, were the ones who were free and able to do whatever they wanted to do. Furthermore, they had lots of blessings to be grateful for such as family, food, clothing, and shelter. As far as material possessions, Paul had nothing to share with others. Yet, the one with nothing actually did comfort those with much. ‘Rejoice and again I say rejoice,’ the same prisoner urges us this morning.
Here’s the third story to ponder. Feel free to guess who this lady is. She was born in 1820 and died in 1915. She became blind when she was six weeks old through an improper medical treatment. She was married to a blind musician and had a child who died in early infancy. She was rather petite in appearance; less than five feet tall and weighed less than one hundred pounds. To some, she was physically unattractive —“a long face, prominent front teeth with a gap between them; thick, wavy hair parted in the middle and pulled backward in curls that hung to the shoulders”; she also wore the dark rectangular glasses obscuring her sightless eyes. “Yet, when she spoke, it is said that there was an unusual charisma about her, as her face lit up with an expression that gave her great charm and attractiveness” (Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories, pp. 239-240).
You need more hints? She wrote lots of poems for the Lord, and, in fact, we know well a number of hymns she wrote: “Blessed Assurance,” “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,” “Rescue the Perishing,” and etc. Got the idea now? Yes, her name was Fanny J. Crosby.
By the way, folks, do you know that she had a true conversion experience at a Methodist revival meeting, and said about her conversion experience as follows? “The Lord planted a star in my life and no cloud had ever obscured its light” (Ibid., p. 240).
Now, speaking about the light, Jesus says He is the light of the world (John 8:12). As long as He is in you, no cloud in your life will ever obscure His light, and you will walk in the light. Jesus is also the source of our joy and delight. Can you imagine a person like Fanny J. Crosby, who was blind, did one of the most wonderful ministries in history? What did she do? She led numerous souls to Christ through her songs. Although she could’ve pitied herself for her handicap through her entire life, she was never imprisoned by self-pity. Rather, she stayed very active for the Kingdom of God for years. Who made all the difference in her life? Wasn’t it Jesus Christ the Light and the Joy of the world? She lived for 95 years on earth and now is with the Lord. What do you think she would say to us, if she became alive at this moment among us? Wouldn’t she say the same thing she did through many words of hymns she wrote? That is, the best blessing anyone can have is Jesus Christ–Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.
True joy is found in the Lord:
I promised at the beginning that I would briefly share with you one thing that is in common among these three individuals. They were all Christians. They all had the same faith in Jesus. Their circumstances were different, yet they all found the same joy in the Lord—the source of true joy in our lives. Let me say it one more time: True joy is only found in the Lord. It doesn’t come from anything material. That is, you still may have emptiness even when you are surrounded with a plethora of things. However, you can have true joy without spending a dime, too, as long as you are in the Lord. True joy also transcends circumstances. That’s why I would call it true joy. It doesn’t depend on circumstances. Prosperities don’t guarantee it. It doesn’t disappear in adversities, either. It is unshakable. It is immovable, because it comes from eternal God. Circumstances may change, but God never does. Therefore, let us learn to refuse to fall into your mood swings that go with the circumstances. Rather let us tell God that we will put our 100% trust in Him no matter what. E.g. Fanny J. Crosby story again. “At the age of eight years she wrote her first poem:
Oh what a happy soul am I!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t;
To weep and sigh because I’m blind
I cannot nor I won’t.” (http://www.truthfulwords.org/biography/crosbytw.html)
Do you remember what happened on the first Christmas Eve in the region of Bethlehem (Luke 2:8-12)? That night the heavenly angels appeared before the shepherds out in the field and proclaimed the good news of a great joy for all the people in the world. Since then, Jesus Christ has been the true joy to many. He may be the greatest joy for the world, but He can’t be yours, unless you too have Him in your heart as your Savior and Lord.
Do you miss joy in your life? Does your soul cry for help? Have Jesus Christ right now in your heart. Have Him as your personal Savior and Lord today. Ask Him to come into your heart and be the King in your life. Then, your heart will be filled with heavenly joy. You can have this joy all the time as long as Christ reigns in you. Fix your eyes on Jesus, because He is the only one who can give you true joy. Ask Him, and He will give it to you. Shall we pray?
“Say after me, if you would like to have true joy in your life. Lord Jesus, I repent my sins. Forgive my sins through your precious blood. Please come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior. Be my true joy for the rest of my life. In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.”
Today Pastor Choi continues his series on Jesus’ Second coming: how to live W.E.L.L. in end times. He focuses on Watch and Pray, Encourage each other to assemble, Lay aside the deeds of darkness, and Love fervently. Those who daily live these principles will be ready for His coming without fear.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
How to Live W.E.L.L. in End Times
2 Peter 3:10-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
A New Heaven and Earth
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
In the past few months, I have been praying and pondering on Christ’s coming. I asked the Lord to help me to prepare for what’s coming. Over time, my study of God’s Word and answers to my prayers began to crystalize in my thoughts on how to live in end times. The discoveries I have made and the insights the Lord gave me is what I shared with you last Sunday and I will continue so this morning.
Last Sunday I talked about three things we must be aware of concerning Christ’s second coming: Why He comes again (to judge the ungodly), How He comes again (in the clouds with a trumpet sound), and When it is going to be (no one knows but God).
Today, we are going to think about how we the people of God ought to live our lives as we await His coming. In fact, I want all of us well prepared as we go through difficult times. I want all of us to live W.E.L.L. in the end times. W.E.L.L. stands for Watch, Encourage, Lay Aside, and Love. When we live out these four principles, we will be ready for His coming without fear.
As far as the first component of living well, that is watch, I pretty much covered it last Sunday, so I won’t repeat the whole thing again. However, for those folks who missed the sermon, and for all of us to refresh our memory, I would like to briefly mention it.
Out of so many things we can possibly do to prepare for His coming, Christ commands us, first and foremost, to be on the alert and be on our guard. Simply put, watch and pray. If God wants us to pray without ceasing in ordinary times (I Thessalonians 5:17), how much more urgent it is for us to watch and pray in difficult times? Therefore, I urge everyone to increase your time of prayer. Remember: no matter how godly we may think we are, if we don’t spend time in prayer, we are asleep and we will find ourselves unprepared for Christ’s coming. May the Lord find us on the alert at His coming.
Now, I am going to focus on the other three elements of living well in the end times: (Watch), Encourage, Lay Aside, and Love.
A. Encourage one another to gather in Christ’s name (Hebrews 10:24-25).
God’s Word commands us to encourage each other to get together in the name of our Lord as we see the day draw near. Listen to the Word of God in Hebrews 10:24-25: 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Reality check: today in America, many Christians get into the bad habit of not going to church. 92 % of Americans believe in God (http://www.gallup.com/poll/147887/Americans-Continue-Believe-God.aspx). Only 37% of Christians attend worship services weekly and 29 % of Christians seldom or never attend church (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/09/13/what-surveys-say-about-worship-attendance-and-why-some-stay-home/). The average worship attendance of Methodists is once a month and it is not getting better. I am grateful and proud of my congregation, though, because you are faithful worshippers. Some of you even drive more than 10 miles one way each week. Worship on Sunday morning is well ingrained in our spiritual DNA and we worship the Lord every Sunday. Please keep up the good work.
Now, let’s think about why the Lord commands us to keep up this great practice of gathering together. The answer is found in verse 24: so that we may stimulate one another to love and good deeds. When we get together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, first we worship the Lord; next, we also stimulate each other to love and good deeds. We need each other’s encouragement and stimulation. In God’s kingdom, “no one is an island” (John Donne). E.g. Church is like a fire-place. We are like firewood. Like the logs are put together for fire going strong, so are we for our faith going strong. Like the logs are separated and the flame dies out, so does our faith and practice when we are not together. E.g. the other day I heard a story about one member who was exhausted with her week and almost didn’t come to church that morning. But, when she did, her tired spirit was refreshed during the service by the children’s sermon.
Even though our technology-driven society keeps us more isolated than before, and some of us love the virtual reality through social media, let us not neglect our physical gathering together in the name of our Lord. We need each other.
B. Lay aside the deeds of darkness (Romans 13:11-14)
The next key to living well in end times is to lay aside the deeds of darkness and conduct a holy life. Listen again to the Word of God in Romans 13:11-14. 11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
In the Scripture, the Day of the Lord is compared to the wedding day in Heaven: Christ is the groom and the church (that is, body of Christ) is the bride. Imagine the day of the wedding. Both the groom and the bride make sure that they are pure and clean. For instance, they take a shower/bath and put on the best clothes. The same idea applies to our Heavenly wedding: we the church of God, the bride of Christ, must prepare ourselves with the cloth that is pure and clean; acceptable to God and to Christ our groom. The Bible puts it this way: put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Put on the armor of light (Romans 13:14, 12). Why do we put on Christ? Why do we need the armor of light? So that we may not give any provision for the flesh; so that we may not succumb to the sin and lusts that defile our souls such as carousing, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, sensuality, strife or jealousy (Romans 13:13).
The armor of light is also called the armor of God. To partake in the Heavenly wedding, we need to put on the armor of God such as truth, righteousness, gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God so that we may endure the difficult times and stand firm before God. Listen to Ephesians 6:10-17:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Be sure to wear the armor of God for yourself in the end times. You need it for your defense.
C. Love fervently (1 Peter 4:8)
Lastly, we can live well in the end times with love. Peter the apostle emphatically says to us to love fervently. I am sure all of us have been doing that. But, let’s listen to him one more time in 1 Peter 4:7-8: 7 The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.
Please notice here the context of Peter’s exhortation of fervent love: the end times. In verse 7, he says, “The end of all things is near therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” Then, he goes onto verse 8 saying, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love coves a multitude of sins.”
Let’s think about it for a moment. Have you ever loved someone to the point where your deeds of love actually cover the multitude of sins of the person who received your love? Few of us have such experiences. However, Christ did. He loved us so much that He laid down His life for us. Ultimately His death on the cross covers a multitude of our sins.
Folks, we have a job to do. From today until the Day of the Lord, let us imitate Christ and keep ourselves fervent in loving each other until our love covers the multitude of sins of others.
As for closing, I would repeat what Peter the apostle said in verse 14: 14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless. How do we do it? By living W.E.L.L.: watch and pray, encourage one another to get together, lay aside the deeds of darkness, and love fervently.
Let us pray.
Today Pastor Choi talks about Christ’s second coming in three aspects: A. Why He comes again? B. How will He come again? C. When is it going to be? In conclusion, he reminds and exhorts the congregation that they must be on the alert in prayer while they await their Savior.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Mark 13:32-37 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
32 But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
33 “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. 34 It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. 35 Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’”
According to the Church calendar, today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent consists of four Sundays before Christmas Day. During this Advent season, we remember the spirit of Christmas from awaiting the promised Messiah to witnessing His actual coming as our Savior and Lord.
In the past, God communicated with His people through many means such as nature and people, dreams and visions, signs and wonders. Today He mostly communicates with His people through the Bible (because the Bible is freely available—the best-selling book in history). However, when the Scripture was not available, for instance, in the Old Testament times, the primary way of communication was prophets. For hundreds of years God has spoken to His people through prophets (Hebrews 1:1). Through the prophets He promised to Israel that He would send them the Messiah who would restore God’s reign on earth. That promise had been fulfilled 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. God sent His Son to humanity. In fact, that’s what Christmas is all about. Jesus Christ was born with a mission: to save His people from their sins. Let me assure you again the very reason for Jesus’ first coming: (as His name says the Lord saves) He came to save humanity from sin and to give them eternal life.
Now, our Lord Jesus Christ lived on earth for 33 years. Especially, the last three years of His earthly life, He did many miracles, healed the sick, preached the good news, and taught the Word of God. At the cross He completed the work of salvation: His body was broken so that we may be healed. His blood was shed so that the wages of our sins may be paid. The best part is this: He arose from the dead in order to show us that death is not final. We do have hope of eternal life.
After His physical resurrection, for the next forty days, the risen Christ repeatedly appeared to His disciples and performed many more miracles. Eventually, He ascended into Heaven to be seated at the right hand of God. As He was ascending to Heaven, He promised His disciples saying, “I will come again.”
Since His ascension, 2,000 years have passed. We Christians still await the fulfillment of His promise. We are still waiting for His second coming. In the New Testament Jesus in His own words had already told us about His coming (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21). So, it would be foolish of us if we fail to take heed to what He said about His own second coming. That’s our topic this morning.
One day Christ’s disciples asked Him about His second coming (Mark 13:4). Today’s passage is part of His answer to them. If Jesus were here today in our midst, and if we asked Him the same question (that is, when He is coming to us and what signs we should look for), I doubt that He will change His original answer. He would give us the same answer and say to us, “I already have given you. Read My Book—-Mark 13.” Based on that chapter, I am going to explain to you three parts of His promise of coming: A. Why He comes again? B. How will He come again? C. When is it going to be?
One thing I know about His second coming is this: He will come to judge the world. It is going to be different from the first time. When He came first time, it was for salvation for all. But this time it’s going to be for judgment. The Bible says He will come to judge the ungodly. Listen to 2 Peter 3:7: But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
Christ will come again for the judgment of the world, not for its redemption. It is not going to be pretty for those who refuse to obey God. It is going to be miserable for those who are ungodly. We don’t have to be afraid of His coming, though, because it is going to be our salvation and deliverance (Luke 21:28). It is going to be our glorious day to meet the Lord in the air. Listen again to Hebrews 9:28: so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. Folks, His coming is great news for us! Rejoice! Let’s share this great news with others so that they too can be included in salvation not in judgment, Amen?
B. How will He come again? (Acts 1:11, Matthew 24:26-27, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
In what manner He will come, first, Jesus said that He will come in the same way as He was taken to Heaven (Acts 1:11). In other words, as the disciples of Jesus witnessed with their own eyes Him taken up into Heaven, we too will be able to see Him come down with our own eyes. Furthermore, when He comes, everyone on earth, with no exception, will be able to see Him simultaneously. It won’t be like: we Americans see Him, but folks in Australia won’t. Rather, everyone in the world, from America to China, from Antarctica to Greenland, even people in North Korea will be able to see Him at the same time. How do I know? The Word of God says so. Listen to Matthew 24:26-27: So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. 27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Next, He will come in clouds with great power and glory (Mark 13:26). He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven (Mark 13:27). He will come in the clouds with the trumpet sound. No one will miss His coming. It’s going to be loud and clear to all ears. Listen to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. [play Handel’s Messiah: The trumpet shall sound].
We must know that His coming is the appointed time (Kairos) (v. 33). It is firmly written in God’s schedule book. He has every intention to keep it. Therefore, Christ’s second coming is not a matter of “if” it happens, but “when” it happens.
As far as the exact time of His coming is concerned, no matter how curious you are, don’t waste your time in speculating, because no one knows the day or hour, neither the angels in Heaven, nor Jesus; only the Father knows (Mark 13:32). In the past 2-3 years, many God’s servants say that we are getting close to His coming. Don’t blindly believe what they say. Rather, check yourself with what’s going on in today’s world. Collect all the news yourself and compare them to the words Jesus has spoken in Mark 13, Matthew 24, and Luke 21. Here are some of the signs of the end times that I checked myself in recent months: wars, rumors of wars, nation against nation, earthquakes, famine, darkening of the Moon, persecution against Christians, and false prophets. Consider also other signs in our society. Paul the Apostle prophesied about them well in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.
In terms of what we must do while we await His coming, the Lord Jesus commands us not to panic (Mark 13:7), or be deceived (Mark 13:5, 21), nor worry (Mark 13:11). The first and foremost of Christ’s command for us is to be on the alert [γρηγορειτε]—four times in today’s text (v. 33, 34, 35, 37). ‘Watch’ in KJV. By the way, how did the disciples of Jesus understand the word ‘watch’? Here’s how they understood: watch means to ‘remain awake’—Oxford Dictionary— ‘for a period of time.’ It is also used in the context of ‘pray.’ So, ‘to be on the alert’ means ‘to watch and pray.’ And, ‘to watch and pray’ means ‘to stay spiritually awake and keep on praying.’
Why do we need to stay awake and pray? Because, we don’t know the day or the hour of His coming. He will come like a thief at night (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Since we don’t know the time of His coming, we relax our attitude and our expectation of His coming. Consequently, our hearts will get dull to the signs of the times so that we live out our lives as business as usual. Our hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, and the worries of life. Another translation (the Message Bible) puts this way—Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. We must watch lest we live a life of dissipation, our hearts be drunk with the worldly pleasures and wrapped with the worldly cares. And to those souls, the Lord warns, the day will come upon suddenly like a trap (Luke 21:34—NASB).
Don’t think that His warning is just for some pastors. It is for every believer in Christ. Jesus says in v. 37: What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’ Listen again. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
Be on the alert. We can do it, until He comes, Amen?
Next Sunday, we are going to listen again to the Word of God: this time what kind of life we should conduct while we await His coming.
Let us pray.
Today Pastor Choi talks about God’s will in Christ for all God’s children: be thankful in all circumstances. He shares with the congregation three keys to thankfulness; thankfulness is a choice, thankfulness is a trust, thankfulness is an attitude of worship.
The following is a summary of the sermon:
The Old Man and the Horse [subtitle: three keys to thankfulness]
1 Thessalonians 5:18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Let me begin with a Chinese folk tale. It is called “The Horse of an Old Man in a Remote Village.”
Once upon a time there was an old man in a village in the northern Chinese border. He lived with his only son. He also owned a horse and one morning his horse was gone. The village people came to see if he was all right. They comforted him saying, “We are sorry that your horse is gone. It is a misfortune!”
The old man responded with little emotions saying, “Don’t be sorry for me. Who knows if this may turn into a blessing?’
Several months later, the horse came back. Not only had he returned, he also had brought a beautiful mare with him. Once again, the village people gathered around and said to the old man, “We are glad that your horse is back with another horse. Congratulations! What we thought a misfortune was a blessing!”
The old man replied as-a-matter-of-factly saying, “How do I know if this is a blessing or not? It may turn into a curse.”
Sure enough. His word came true a few days later. While the old man’s son tried to break the new horse, he fell from the horse and broke his legs. Once again the villagers comforted the old man saying, “We are sorry about what happened to your son. This new horse is a bad news!”
The old man spoke plainly. “Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse?”
A year passed and China was engaged in a war against a neighboring country. All the able men of the village went to the war and many of them died. Only the son of the old man was spared because of his injury.
The morale of the story is this: Do not jump to conclusions too quickly. No one is wise enough to know how things will turn out in the end. Only God knows.
Thanksgiving is just four days away. As we gather with our families and friends, let us not forget giving thanks to God for all the blessings.
A pop quiz for you: If you squeeze the entire population of the world down to 10 people, how many of them would actually remember to say “thank you” to you when you do something nice for them? The answer: only one (10%) [Both statistics and the Bible confirm it]. This is true when things are good. For bad things, very rarely people give thanks to you and to God [actually we tend to blame God for bad things, don’t we?]. But, God commands us to be thankful in all circumstances; both good and bad. That’s our topic this morning.
Before I dig deeper, let me read today’s text one more time to you: this time my own translation of the original Greek: in all circumstances and all the time be thankful; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Some of us already think that it is impossible to be thankful in all circumstances. You’re right. In fact, with our own power, we can’t be thankful especially in adversities. I am here to remind you, though, that God never asks us to do something impossible. For the things that He asks us to be thankful, He also equips and enables us to do it. Being thankful in all circumstances is not only possible but also doable [but only in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13)]. I am going to share with you three keys to thankfulness in all circumstances.
First, thankfulness is a choice. It is not a feeling. We don’t thank God only when we feel like it. We don’t thank God only for good things, either. In fact, even the people who don’t know God can be grateful for the blessings. We, God’s children, are different. We choose to be thankful no matter what (why? Because it is God’s will). In the midst of all life’s situations, we choose not to go with our emotions but with our will. Don’t misunderstand here: when God commands us to be thankful, He doesn’t mean that we should be happy because bad things happened to us. No, He rather expects us to stay thankful to Him despite bad things and despite our bad feelings.
There are two words in English we interchangeably use to express our gratitude: ‘grateful’ and ‘thankful.’ Let me point out here that it was rather intentional when the Bible translators chose the word ‘thankful’ over ‘grateful’ in today’s text. In the Bible, ‘grateful’ is used for only good circumstances, while ‘thankful’ covers a greater territory and is used in both good and bad circumstances. For instance, we are grateful for a promotion at work. We are not grateful, however, when we are laid off. Let’s say we lost our jobs. We may not be happy; we may be far from grateful for the situation. However, God still wants us to be thankful. Remember: we are commanded to be thankful not just grateful. We choose to stay thankful. We choose to obey God’s will even when we don’t understand why bad things happen to us. Thankfulness is a choice.
Next, thankfulness is a trust. Without God, you can’t be thankful in all circumstances. Without trust in God, you can’t be thankful at all, either. Thankfulness begins with the understanding of who God is. God is all-powerful. He is everywhere. He knows everything. He is the author of time: He sees everything simultaneously; the beginning, the end, and everything in between. He is the only One who sees the entire picture of our lives. He knows when we were born. He sees when we are going to die. He sees everything in between. He sees the whole picture of our lives. That’s why we can trust in Him. That’s why we can rely on His wisdom. Remember the story of the old man and the horse? We humans pretend that we know all about our lives, yet the truth is that we don’t. We only see a piece here and a piece there. Without looking at the big picture, we make quick judgments on our situations (either good or bad) and we are bound to make mistakes. None of us knows how our life will turn out in the end. But, God does. Do you believe in God’s faithfulness and goodness? Then, trust in Him and put everything in His hands. Defer your judgments to God. He is the fairest of all. Trust in His good will that He will cause all things to work together for our good (Romans 8:28). Thankfulness is a trust.
Lastly, thankfulness is an attitude; the attitude of worship.
You may wonder: what does worship have anything to do with being thankful to God? How can worship help me to be thankful to God in all circumstances, especially in bad ones?
By the way, the worship I am talking about is more than Sunday morning worship services. Worship can take place, if we choose to, anytime and anywhere; we can worship God when we drive. We can worship God when we rake the leaves or even in the shower.
This is how it works: worship shifts our attention from us to God. In worship, we fix our eyes on God and His greatness, not on our problems. In worship, we remember who God is. We adore and praise His Holy name and invoke His help for our situations. In worship we remember who we are; we are God’s children and we call out to our Heavenly Father who cares about every need of ours. In worship, we encounter the God who is faithful to His children. In worship we remember God’s goodness and hold unto His promises, not unto our fears or anxieties.
Let me put it a different way. In worship, we don’t focus on the bad things happening to us. We focus on God, His greatness, His faithfulness, and His goodness. Worship helps us to look up to God and trust in Him who makes all things beautiful for those who love Him. Worship reminds us to trust in God’s ultimate good will for us. You see, we can be thankful to God only when we trust in Him who turns all the bad things into our good in due time.
Stay in constant spirit of worship of the Lord wherever you are and whenever it may be, and you will be able to be thankful. Thankfulness is an attitude of worship.
A well-loved hymn: It Is Well with My Soul—the words were written by Horatio Gates Spafford in 1873. Mr. Spafford was married and lived in Chicago with his family. He was “professor of medical jurisprudence of Lind University and he bought a great deal of real estate on the lake front. Then tragedy struck repeatedly. First, the Chicago fire of 1871 wiped out his real estate holdings. Then, in 1873, he planned a family vacation in Europe. Spafford sent his family ahead aboard the ship Ville du Havre. Out on the high seas, the Ville du Havre collided with the Lochearn and sunk. Mrs. Spafford was saved but their four daughters perished. Spafford took the next boat to meet his wife in Cardiff, Wales, where the survivors had been taken and while sailing past the spot where his daughters perished, wrote It is Well With My Soul. Their son also died an untimely death in 1880” (Charles Johnson, One hundred & One famous hymns, p. 144). He lost his five children in 7 years. [Hymnal #377] Verse 1: When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul. I have no doubt that only his determination to trust in the Lord in the attitude of worship carried him through his life’s tragedies.
Anyone can be grateful for good things. Very few people in their own might can be thankful in adversities. However, God’s people are called to be thankful in all circumstances. In Christ and with God’s help, we can and will be thankful all the time in all circumstances. Thankfulness is a choice, it is a trust, and it is an attitude of worship.
Today Pastor Choi urges the congregation not to be a fool in the sight of God. He points out a three-fold error the rich fool made: fixing eyes on the life on earth only, setting his heart on the increase of wealth, and neglecting the welfare of others. He exhorts the believers to be rich toward God by living with an eternal life perspective, setting their heart on true riches of God, and giving to the poor.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Don’t Be a Fool.
Luke 12:13-21 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
13 Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” 16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Some years ago, I was much into children’s literature all over the world: from Europe to Africa, from India to Korea. After reading scores of them, I began to notice certain common themes such as ‘don’t be greedy,’ ‘be honest,’ ‘honor your parents’ and so forth. One of the themes across the board was this: don’t be a simpleton. Don’t be a fool. I guess it is a universal lesson for humanity for centuries. Even the Bible talks about it. That’s our topic today: don’t be a fool.
Let me begin with a question for you.
Are You a Fool?
To the Poor
Today Pastor Choi encourages God’s people to pray for the persecuted believers in Christ in the world. He also urges the congregation to take up their own cross and follow Christ. He points out that Christ Himself suffered on behalf of humanity. We too as followers of Christ must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him for the eternal good for all.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Church and Suffering
Colossians 1:24 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
Bulletin insert: “I Commit to Pray”— use it to lift up our sisters and brothers in Christ in prayer. [Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body—Hebrews 13:3].
Our topic this morning is Church and suffering.
Suffering is a very unpopular topic to talk about in today’s society; whenever you talk about it, it is almost certain that you will make someone mad, either at you or at God. In my 25 years of ministry, I preached over 1,000 times. Yet, only once or twice I spoke about pain and suffering, because people generally don’t appreciate it. Furthermore, the topic itself is too broad to cover with one sermon; you have to deal with evil in the world (to begin with) and with so many sufferings that don’t make any sense such as school shootings, plane crashes, children’s cancer, and so forth.
This morning, I am going to wise up myself and limit my focus on the Christian suffering; suffering in the context of Church, the body of Christ; the believers’ suffering due to their faith. Questions or comments on other types of suffering must wait for another time. Lord willing, I will deal with them later. So, pray with me now: Lord, open up our hearts and ears to listen to Your truth about Church and suffering. Amen.
MY OWN TRANSLATION OF GREEK TEXT
Let me read to you today’s text one more time—this time my own translation with my own commentaries. Remember: Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter— in a Roman dungeon—not because of his wrongdoing but because of his witness for Christ.
Now I rejoice [keep rejoicing—not liking it, but whenever suffering comes, I take it in stride and with an attitude of welcoming it] in my sufferings [multiple occasions] on your behalf [my sufferings have a purpose in it—they are for you the Church], and I fill [keep filling] up in my flesh [my own share of physical pain] the lacking things of Christ’s afflictions [‘lacking’ means, afflictions will continue to happen to God’s people until God says enough—Revelation 6:11. ‘afflictions’ means unpleasant experiences] on behalf of His body [once again my sufferings are not meaningless—they are for His body], which is the church.
DEFINITION OF SUFFERING
Secular understanding: Oxford dictionary defines as [u] pain of body or mind; [plural] feelings of pain, unhappiness, or etc. General attitude: avoid it at all costs.
Biblical understanding: in the entire Bible there are 150 entries under ‘suffer,’ ‘suffered,’ ‘suffering,’ or ‘sufferings.’ Only once, it talks about suffering as a consequence of our sins [murder, for example]. It is not God’s will for us to suffer for wrongdoings. However, there are times and occasions that God wills and considers it worth suffering; for instance, sufferings for Jesus and His Kingdom. In the New Testament, the believer’s suffering is described exclusively in the context of Christ, Christians, and Church. E.g. suffering on account of faith in Christ, suffer according to God’s will, suffer while doing what is good / right in the sight of God. Proper attitude should be like Paul’s: rejoice and take it in stride.
CHRIST THE SUFFERING SERVANT
The Christian understanding of suffering begins with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Did you know Christ Himself was not exempt from suffering even though He was equal to God and sinless? Why did He suffer, then? Not because He had done anything wrong, but because God willed His suffering. It was God’s perfect will for Christ to suffer and die for us. He suffered vicariously for humanity. In Isaiah 53, we see Christ the Messiah, the suffering servant. He was without sin yet suffered on behalf of the sinners. God sent Him to the Cross to pay the wages of our sin. On the cross, He had to endure excruciating pain for hours. Let’s not forget: He didn’t deserve to be punished like that. Rather, He suffered on our account and on our behalf so that we may go free. Such suffering, God wills and approves. Listen more.
SUFFERING WITH A PURPOSE
I already told you that God appointed His only begotten Son to suffer and die on the Cross: not that He didn’t love His son, not that He wasn’t pleased with Him, nor that the Messiah deserved such a punishment. But that it was God’s will and His plan that were laid out even before the creation of the world. Here’s the truth. Christ’s suffering was with a divine purpose. It was not meaningless or senseless. Christ the Righteous died for the unrighteous. It makes no sense in human eyes where the penalty should go to the perpetrator, not to the innocent, yet it sure makes perfect sense to God. Some of us still grapple with it. You may call it God’s mystery. You may even reject the cross and accept only good things of the gospel such as peace, joy, love, and eternal life, yet one thing you cannot deny is that Christ suffered. The same God expects us to be like Jesus including suffering (2 Corinthians 1:5, 4:10, 1 Thessalonians 3:3).
TWO-FOLD MEANING OF CROSS: suffering and eternal good
“Deny yourself, take up your own cross daily, and follow Me,” commands the suffering Christ (Luke 9:23). He means what He says. He is never ambiguous about it. Neither should we. Remember: cross means suffering. Think of the cross in the time of Jesus. It was a means of public execution. Everyone understood the meaning of it —public disgrace and hours of excruciating pain that led to death. As Christ took up His own cross, He commands us to take up the cross of our own—be ready to die for Him and for the sake of others. We too, as He suffered, have our own share of suffering in our heaven-bound journey. However, our suffering is not senseless or meaningless. It too has a purpose. What’s the purpose? Eternal good for ourselves and for others. Imagine a relationship where no one wants to sacrifice themselves on behalf of others. Imagine a family where no one wants to take the garbage out, cook, do the dishes, or clean the toilet. Every troubled relationship or nation has one thing in common: no one wants to take up their cross and they blame everybody else for the problems. Somebody has to take up the cross for the sake of others.
Let’s face it. When we became a believer in Christ, very few of us signed up for the cross; rather, we signed up for blessings such as eternal life, health, wealth, wisdom, love, joy, peace, and self-control. Now, we must realize that those ‘good’ things are not the ultimate goal of a Christian (they are benefits, not the goal). Our ultimate goal is Christ Himself; do whatever He commands, go wherever He leads, and live out His will. All other ‘good’ things are the byproducts of the cross: they come afterwards not before. Jesus says, the cross is good for you; take up your own cross and follow Me; in the end, it will benefit all; you, others, and the Church. Let me tell you one more time: the cross is eternally good for all. The cross and crown go together. However, the cross comes before the crown. You can’t have the crown without the cross.
APOSTLES AND THE BODY OF CHRIST IN THE NEXT TWO MILLENIA
I already told you that Paul wrote today’s text in prison taking part in Christ’s suffering. Later, he was executed. So were all the other apostles; they fully participated in Christ’s suffering by enduring public disgrace, shame, and death: all of them filled up their bodies with suffering on behalf of the Church.
For the next two thousand years, countless believers followed Christ’s steps and filled up His body the Church with their own sufferings, too. Like Pastor Suta today. Like an Indian sister in Christ who was attacked with acid that ruined her face.
We call those believers who died on behalf of Christ “martyrs.”—meaning “witnesses” with their own death. For them, it was worth it all—for the sake of Christ and His Church!
Wherever martyrdom takes place, one thing always happens to the body of Christ; revival and growth. The opposite is true, too. History tells us that when there was no persecution or suffering, the Church became corrupt, compromising, stagnant, and even declined. E.g. one American Christian sect dissuades its followers from meditating on the Cross because it reminds them too much of suffering and pain. They even removed the crosses from their church decorations. Is it a coincidence that the Church in America is dying when it avoids the cross by all means? I don’t like a recent increase of persecutions in America against believers, but in a grand scheme, perhaps God has a different plan to purify His Church through suffering.
When persecution arose against the body of Christ, and when the believers underwent torture, imprisonment, and death, the Church of God stayed pure, strong, and even grew in number. Today, all around the world, persecutions abound and the Holy Spirit is at work. The Church is growing leaps and bounds in the midst of suffering.
REALITY CHECK IN AMERICA
Understand the culture we are living in: Get rid of pain/suffering by all means. E.g. pain killer business—multi-billion dollar business every year. I understand why non-believers push suffering away from them. What about the Church? We too avoid suffering at all costs, do we not? But, how can we help the people in the world without knowing and experiencing the suffering first hand? How would we understand the meaning of apathy, sympathy, empathy, and compassion when we have not tasted of suffering at all?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating needless pain or suffering for the sake of suffering and pain. Neither am I looking for it for the sake of having it. Like many others, I myself prefer no suffering and a painless life. Yet, when it comes down to legitimacy and necessity of pain and suffering in the believer’s life and the life of the Church, if that’s what God has in mind, I am willing to take it. In fact, God’s Word confirms it. That’s why I urge you all to be willing to take your own share of suffering for the sake of Christ. I am thankful that ours will not be as drastic as Christ’s or Paul’s. Most of us are grateful that God doesn’t consider our faith as strong as Paul’s. However, all of us have our own crosses to bear. As long as we take it, let’s take it in stride.
Millions of believers in the world today go through all kinds of persecution because of their faith in Christ. They rejoice as they fill up their own lives with Christ’s afflictions such as mockery, physical pain, financial loss, and even death. Let us remember them in our prayers. Support them financially if you can. May the Holy Spirit convict us; strengthen our hearts to follow Christ all the way like our brothers and sisters in the world do.
May God awaken our souls and grant us the desire to follow Him with our own crosses.
Let us pray.
Today Pastor Choi talks about life worthy of God’s calling: God the Creator and the Sustainer of all creations has chosen us to be His adopted children before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). His choice was intentional and He called each of us by name. The same God calls us to live a life worthy of His calling. Pastor Choi exhorts God’s people to make God proud through a lifestyle that is worthy of His name.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Life Worthy of God’s Calling
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (New American Standard Bible)
11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4:1-3 (New American Standard Bible)
4 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
It’s hard to believe that we are already in November. Two more months to go, and another new year! In January this year, I designated 2015 to be the year of knowing Jesus. I encouraged every one of you to get to know Him personally. I myself was blessed to know Jesus in a newer and deeper level than before. I pray and hope that all of you made progress in knowing Jesus personally. Let’s continue knowing Him every day.
Whatever and however we get to know Jesus, one thing we want to make sure is this: to know Him right. Here’s why: after many years of serving Him in many capacities and doing many things in His name (prophesying, casting out demons, and performing miracles), there’s a chance that we still could get Him wrong. E.g. Matthew 7:21-23 “I never knew you.” We may think that we have known Him well, yet He could say to us in the end of our heaven-bound journey, “I never knew you! Depart from Me.” Now, none of us wants it to happen to us, right?
Therefore, let us come before Him with humility and a prayer that He would illumine us with the true and correct knowledge that it would bring forth in us the lifestyle of which He would be proud and say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your master!” (Matthew 25:21).
Please look at the sermon title: life worthy of God’s calling. I am going to highlight three things here. First, God who has called us—we are going to ponder on the greatness of God. Next, we are going to think about the object of God’s call: us. Thirdly, the life worthy of God.
The Greatness of God: The life worthy of God’s calling cannot begin without the right understanding of how great our God is. Most of us have a general and shallow understanding of God. Some believers even call Him “a man upstairs.” We all know that God exists and He is greater than we are. But, that’s just about it. We seldom take time to think or meditate on the greatness of God.
I don’t have enough time to give you a sermon on God’s greatness, so I am going to give you a brief summary of who God is. First, God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). He created all the things visible and invisible; every living creature that has breath in it. By the way, folks, He doesn’t share the credit of creation with anyone else, not even with evolution. Check yourself. Numerous times in the Scripture, God claims that it is He alone who willed every single creature, designed them, and created them all (Isaiah 45:8, Revelation 4:11).
God is not only the Creator, but also is the Sustainer. He gives life and health to all the creatures. He provides their needs every day, too; food, shelter, and clothing. He takes care of them all. E.g. One day, Jesus was talking about worries. He says when you are worried, lift up your head and look at the birds of the air. They don’t sow, reap, nor gather into barns, yet the Heavenly Father feeds them. Look at the lilies in the field, He continues. They do not toil or spin, yet even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these (Matthew 6:26-29). If God cares about the creatures like that, Jesus concludes, how much more He will take care of your needs? (Matthew 6:30).
Thirdly, God is the One to be worshipped. He is the only One worthy of our worship and devotion. Here’s why. He has created us; He sustains us; He provides every need of ours. We owe Him everything we have and enjoy. Therefore, He deserves our total devotion to Him, and we render it in worship. Look at the first commandment of the Ten Commandments: you shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3). You shall worship Me alone (Exodus 34:14). We worship God alone, because no one else deserves our worship but God.
Speaking of worship, some people say that they don’t go to church because they don’t get anything from the sermon. Even though you get nothing out of the sermon, it doesn’t exempt you from worshipping the Lord with fellow believers. E.g. A history book describes Pilgrims as folks who loved to travel by sea. Seriously? They came to America for the freedom of worship. I am afraid that some textbook writers in future may describe Christians as folks who love to get together once a week to have fellowship; as the folks who love to sing songs; as the folks who love to give offerings. No, all these are on the surface. The center of worship is God. He is the main focus and object of worship. That’s why even when we get nothing out of sermon, we still worship the Lord.
Let me tell you about the true nature of worship: worship is an encounter with God where we acknowledge who God is in our life (Creator); and we acknowledge who we are before God (Creature). E.g. Heavenly worship in Revelation 4 & 5. Every creature, including the 24 elders and four living creatures, along with angels and multitudes of God’s saints, worships God in His throne prostrating before Him (Revelation 5:12-14). They all declare, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory, honor, and power” (Revelation 4:11). What about Jesus? In the same Heavenly worship, they too worship Him declaring, “The Lamb of God who is worthy of power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing” (Revelation 5:12). “He is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14). “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10). That’s how majestic our God is. That’s how great our Christ is. That’s the Christ we follow and serve. That’s the God who has called us to be a part of His kingdom.
We are called by God: Have you ever played “bingo?” As you play, have you not always desired to be called the winner? How exciting it is to be chosen! How much more exciting it is to be chosen and called by God to be in His family! The sad reality is this: some believers have no idea of this blessing to be called by God.
God has called us from darkness to light; from bondage of sin and death to freedom; from fear to love; from condemnation to forgiveness; and from death to life. Furthermore, in Christ, He has adopted us into His family and made us His own sons and daughters (Ephesians 1:5). If God is the King, what would it make us to be? Princes and princesses, right? Hello, how many of us feel that way let alone realizing this great blessing?
It gets better. God’s choice is intentional. God hasn’t chosen us on the spur of moment. Rather, He carefully thought it through and executed the adoption. Listen to God’s Word: He has chosen us to be His children even before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Mind boggling, isn’t it? Yes, long before we were even conceived in mother’s womb, He has chosen us to be His children. God knows this. Jesus knows this. The Holy Spirit knows it, too. God’s Word confirms it. Angels know this. Even the devil and his followers know this. Yet, do you? God has not chosen you by number, either. He knows you by name. He called out your name and invited you to join the family. It can’t get any better than that, can it? Such a God expects us His children to lead a life worthy of His calling. That leads us to the final part.
Life worthy of God’s calling: E.g. The story goes that a young boy was brought before Alexander the Great for stealing a horse. Alexander saw how young he was and heard his story and decided he would go easy on him. Getting ready to release him, Alexander asked the young boy, “What is your name?” He replied, “Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great was furious and asked him again, “What is your name?” The boy, this time with fear in his voice said, “Alexander, sir.” In anger, Alexander the Great threw the boy to the ground pointed at him and said, “Boy, change your conduct, or change your name.”
Think of the life worthy of God’s name. We carry the name of Christ. We are Christians. Are you proud of the name you carry? Is Christ proud of you carrying that name?
Let’s not forget: You and I represent God and Christ. We are His children. We belong to God. We belong to Christ. We are a Christian. By the way, let’s not be ashamed of being a Christian. We are living in a society where the mockery and persecution of Christianity is ever increasing. Let’s not be ashamed of Christ whom we follow. In fact, if we are ashamed of Him before people, Christ will be ashamed of us in front of the angels (Mark 8:38). Let’s be proud of the name we carry. We are a Christian!
Now, God considered us worthy of calling, and the same God calls us to live a life worthy of His calling. In terms of what entails of the life worthy of Christ’s name, such as humility, gentleness, patience, and love, you can find them in today’s texts. Do your homework.
Now, I am going to close my sermon with a story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17).
One day two armies gathered for battle: Philistines and Israel. “The Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them. 4 Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath whose height was [about 10 foot tall]. 5 …a bronze helmet on his head,…clothed with scale-armor which weighed [125 pounds] of bronze. 6 He also had bronzegreaves on his legs and a bronze javelin slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the head of his spear weighed [15 pounds] of iron; his shield-carrier also walked before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us.” 10 Again the Philistine said, “…; give me a man that we may fight together.”
6 The Philistine came forward morning and evening for forty days and took his stand. 24 When all the men of Israel saw the man, they fled from him and were greatly afraid.
One day David delivered a care package for his three brothers who were in the army of Israel. “23 As he was talking with them, behold, …Goliath, was coming up from the army of the Philistines, and he spoke these same words; and David heard them and said, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”
40 He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine.
42 When [Goliath] looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance.43 [He] said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And [He] cursed David by his gods.44 …said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.46 This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”
The rest is history. I want to be that David, the man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). I want to live a life that is worthy of God’s name and His calling. I want my God to be proud of my words and actions like He was with David’s. I pray that all of us live the life worthy of God’s calling.
Today Pastor Choi talks about three types of spirituality: natural, carnal, and spiritual. A ‘natural’ person doesn’t know Christ or have the Holy Spirit. Her mind is blinded by the devil that she cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. A ‘carnal’ person believes in Jesus as Savior and Lord and has the Holy Spirit in her. However, she remains spiritual baby; she cannot handle the truth well. She still walks according to own desires. She demonstrates little fruits of the Holy Spirit. A ‘spiritual’ believer is mature in faith and practice. Her faith is grounded in God’s Word the truth, not in human words of wisdom. Her first and foremost interest in life is to please God and doing God’s will. Pastor Choi exhorts the congregation to keep growing mature in Christ by getting into the Word of God, pray daily, and walking in the Holy Spirit.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Three Types of People 1 Corinthians 2:13-3:4
1 Corinthians 2:13-3:4 New King James Version (NKJV)
13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Sectarianism Is Carnal
3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
Background info on today’s text: Paul the missionary started the church in Corinth. He didn’t stay there long and moved on to the next place. A man named Apollos followed him. He was a great Bible teacher. A few years later, there was a division among the believers; a half of the congregation remembered Paul and still followed him as their leader, yet the other half followed Apollos. So, in his letter to them, Paul lamented over the division four times saying, “You are carnal” (1 Corinthians 3: 1, 3, & 4). He says; you are immature; you are still babies in Christ because of the division, envy, and strife among you. You act like people who don’t know Christ at all. Don’t follow me. Don’t follow Apollos, either. Follow Christ only.
Once I met a lady who claimed that she was spiritual but not religious. Nowadays, many people consider themselves spiritual but not religious meaning that they believe in God but not necessarily go to church or are associated with any “organized religion.” I guess anyone can call themselves anyway they want. However, we the believers in Christ must have the clear and right understanding of what the Bible says about those terms. One thing is for sure: this lady’s claim ‘being spiritual’ is definitely NOT what the Word of God calls spiritual. Being spiritual in the Bible never means just having faith in God (even the demons believe that there is one God—James 2:19). Rather, it is reserved for those who are mature in Christ in their walk with God.
That’s what we are going to think about this morning: three types of people in terms of spirituality. In today’s text we see three words that are related to spirituality (in the order of maturity): Natural, Carnal, and Spiritual. God’s Word makes a clear distinction among them. Let me explain to you one by one.
Natural (ψυχικος, 1 Corinthians 2:14) [literal translation: soulish]
How does the Bible define a person who is ‘natural’? A person is natural when she doesn’t believe in Jesus as her Savior and Lord. The natural person doesn’t have the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14), either. Therefore, she cannot say that Jesus is the Lord. This definition includes, but not limited to, atheists, agnostics, all the followers in other religions than Christianity (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shamanism, Shintoism, etc.). Anyone who doesn’t confess Jesus as the Lord and Savior is natural.
The natural person is outside Jesus and cannot know or distinguish spiritual things of God. These spiritual things of God are hidden from their eyes and rather appear to them foolishness. E.g. Cross: foolishness to the Greek and a scandal to the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:23).
The wisdom of a natural person is not from above, but rather earthly, sensual, and demonic (James 3:15).
The natural people walk in the futility of mind, darkened in their understanding. They are excluded from the life of God, not because God wants them that way, but because of the ignorance in them and because of the hardness of their heart; having become callous, they give themselves to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness (Ephesians 4:17-19).
They are perishing in God’s eyes, because the god of this world [that is, the devil] has blinded their minds that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). The Gospel is veiled to them. When they hear the word of the kingdom, they don’t understand it, because the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in their hearts (Matthew 13:19).
Don’t be arrogant that you are not natural. In fact, before we knew Christ, we were all natural in God’s eyes. We didn’t know Christ. We didn’t have the Holy Spirit. Our spirits were dead in sin. We lived according to our fleshly desires. We served and worshipped those who by nature are not gods (Galatians 4:8). E.g. Bob Dylan’s song: “Gotta serve somebody.” — Either the devil or the Lord. Thank God, because He has called us to be in His kingdom and we are no longer natural.
Carnal (σαρκικοι—1 Corinthians 3:1, 3, 4) [literal translation: following the flesh]
Who is carnal? A person who believes in Jesus as Savior and Lord; she has the Holy Spirit in her yet still lives according to the worldly pattern.
The carnal believers were born into God’s family, yet not growing and still remain babies in faith and practice. Like babies can digest only milk not solid foods (1 Corinthians 3:1, Hebrews 5:11-14), they cannot digest the truth well. E.g. Jesus says “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother (Matthew 18:15). A carnal believer doesn’t handle well the admonition of truth from other believers.
The carnal believers base their faith on humans not on Christ; therefore, they tend to create factions. Remember today’s text where some believers followed Paul while others followed Apollos? The carnal Christians are not grounded in the Word of God that they are “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). They are also led by various impulses, weighed down with sins, and constantly learning yet never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:6).
They still walk according to own desires like the days when they didn’t know Christ (1 Corinthians 3:3). Their minds are still set on the things of the flesh that leads to death (because it is hostile to God and unable to be subject to God’s law) [Romans 8:5-6].
In their lives, little or no fruits of the Holy Spirit are demonstrated such as peace, joy, love, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). E.g. Sure signs of carnality are frequent rage, lack of self-control, addicted to gambling, games, pornography, and the love of money. A vast majority of believers today belong to this category. We don’t have to be that way, though; in fact, we should never be content with this state. We ought to grow in maturity. That leads us to the next point.
Spiritual (πνευματικοι—1 Corinthians 2:15, 3:1) [literal translation: following the Spirit]
A believer is spiritual when she believes in Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord; she has the Spirit of God; and she is mature (1 Corinthians 2:5 & 13) in faith and practice. She can digest solid food (meat) [Hebrews 5:14]. Her faith is grounded in God’s Word the truth, not in human words of wisdom. She doesn’t follow Paul or Apollos. She follows Christ alone. She is trained to distinguish what is good from what is evil (Hebrews 5:14). She accepts words of admonition from other believers with gratitude and humility. Her first and foremost interest in life is to please God and doing God’s will. E.g. Jesus’ food was doing God’s will (John 14:34).
She walks according to the Holy Spirit. She sets her mind on the things of the Spirit and the things above (Colossians 3:2). Her life demonstrates signs of love, peace, and righteousness (Romans 8:7). She stands fully assured in every will of God (Colossians 4:12).
She also demonstrates spiritual wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:6). E.g. John 8 (Jesus’ wisdom; ‘whoever sinless, first stone the adulterous woman’). King Solomon (when he was fully devoted to the LORD) ordered to cut the baby in two to find the true mother (1 Kings 3:16-28).
Going on Perfection
Let me remind you one more time: we all once were natural not knowing God and outside the salvation. We too were “foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures” (Titus 3:3). We too lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
However, by God’s grace, we were called to be the children of God in Christ and to be the coheirs of Heaven with Christ. We were born into God’s family. We were born anew in Christ. He saved us from our sins. Our spirits became alive in Christ.
Yet, many of us still remain spiritual babies. We are still carnal believers. In our daily lives, we still live like before we knew Christ. There’s not much of difference in lifestyles between us and the people in the world. For instance, many of us still struggle with our natural passions and desires. Many of us are still under the bondage of sin and lusts, greed, passion, and money. It is time for us to move upward and onward, free from such bondages of old self. If we are not happy with where we are now spiritually, neither is God.
In fact, God wants us to grow in Christ like any parent expects her child to grow over time. He has a plan to turn us from carnal Christians into mature ones in Christ. His expectation for us is the highest one we can ever imagine; be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Here, perfect means not without sin or shortcomings. Rather, it means to be mature in Christ to the point where we demonstrate in our words and deeds every aspect of Christ’s character such as love and truth.
Until we become mature in the fullness of Christ, God will keep working on our inner beings (Ephesians 4:11-13). We can count on His faithfulness, wisdom, and patience. He will take time working on us. He will never give up on us nor give up on His part “until Christ is formed in us” (Galatians 4:19).
Tools for Perfection
To accomplish His purpose in us, and to sanctify us, God uses certain tools and venues. For instance, He often uses our life circumstances and people to shape us. But, we don’t have to wait until we get into those situations. We can be proactive and prepare ourselves with the tools that God has already made available to us; the Scripture and prayer.
The Bible helps us to know who God is, and to understand who we are. It also reminds us of the relationship between Him and us. It sufficiently equips us for life’s journey; it reproves us, edifies us, comforts us, and grants wisdom and courage for our daily lives.
Prayer is for daily conversation with God. Don’t neglect to use this great tool which was proven useful and beneficial by all the prophets of God, Jesus, and His disciples for the past thousands of years.
Finally, don’t forget the Holy Spirit our residential help from God 24/7; He teaches us, guides us, counsels us, and reminds us of Jesus’ teachings. All we have to do is: Ask for His help every day.
When we do all these things I have mentioned, we will grow mature in Christ every day and surely become ‘spiritual.’
Today Pastor Choi talks about what Jesus did in the Temple: He chased out the merchants, He healed the blind and the lame, and He welcomed children. So should we in today’s church make prayer as our priority in worship, experience God’s healing among us, and welcome children as Jesus did.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
House of God
Matthew 21:12-17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Cleansing the Temple
12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 And He *said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.”
14 And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant 16 and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus *said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?” 17 And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.
Background: Begin with an explanation of the Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem in the 1st century at the time of Jesus. The temple was standing on the Temple Mount facing east. You climb up the stairs and finally arrive at the Temple area (160 by 250 yards—six football fields). It consists of two parts: outer court and inner courts. The Court of the Gentiles is the outer court. As you continue walking westward, you enter the inner courts beginning with the Court of Women and the Court of the Israelites next (men only). Then, as you get closer to the Temple, you see the Altar on the left and Slaughter House on the right. Behind them, there is the Priest’s Court and the Temple. Inside the Temple there are Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies.
Focus on the court of the Gentiles: this is where money changers and animal sellers set up their tables and chairs. It was also the place where the Jews (both men and women) and the Gentiles were allowed. So were the blind, the lame, and children. In the porticoes, teachers of the Law would engage in theological discussions. There were a row of posts that separated the Gentiles’ Court from the inner courts. Made of stone, each post was about 5 foot-high and 2.5 foot-wide. “Along this balustrade at regular intervals were placed slabs with inscriptions in Greek and Latin forbidding Gentiles, on pain of death, to go further” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 772). In fact, Jews didn’t mind slaying Gentiles who broke the boundaries (and the Roman authorities allowed them to kill even the Roman citizens), because they believed that the presence of uncircumcised Gentile in God’s sanctuary would profane God’s House (Ezekiel 44:7): ‘Thus says the Lord God, “No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the sons of Israel, shall enter My sanctuary (Ezekiel 44:9). Jews took God’s House very seriously. That was the place Jesus cleansed.
The House of God is where God’s heart is perpetually on (1 Kings 9:3). God deeply cares about what’s happening in His house. So does Jesus. Three things did Jesus in the temple: He drove out the merchants, healed the sick, and welcomed the children. Through His cleansing act, He gives us the following three lessons to remember and practice in the House of God.
God doesn’t mind closing the churches. Europe is a good example. Many church buildings once filled with worshippers for centuries are closed now and being used as dance halls and storage rooms. Only the churches that fulfill God’s purpose will thrive and last long. I humbly remind all of us today to fill our church with fervent prayers, to experience the divine healing in the name of Jesus our Lord, and to welcome children as Jesus did. Let us pray.
Today Rev. Dr. Regina Hendrickson, guest speaker, speaks about “Cast Your Net!” Pointing out that 64% of all households in Monmouth and Ocean Counties in NJ have no religious affiliation, she exhorts the congregation to go out and cast their nets right where they are—in the neighborhoods of Manahawkin!
Following is a summary of the sermon.
October 11, 2015 CAST YOUR NET Manahawkin UMC
Peace & grace my brothers and sisters in Christ!
What a joy & privilege it is to be with you again, & I want to thank your pastor for the invitation to preach!
I miss it! Serving as a District Superintendent keeps me out of the pulpit and I miss the chance to share a Word in the midst of God’s people as we worship our living God together.
So thanks again Pastor Kyewoon!
When I served the local church, I loved doing preaching series.
I found they were opportunities to engage in Scripture & relevant themes
that engaged the prophetic Word over a longer time frame
that was exciting for me as preacher as well as for the congregation.
It led to creative components within the worship experience,
as well as small group and mission opportunities
that extended its’ impact beyond any individual Sunday.
Each year, I created a sermon series based on the theme of Annual Conference—
this would help us remember the connectional nature of our life together
as United Methodists and how we were called to live out
the Bishop’s challenge and vision in the local church & communities
in which we live and serve.
Again, that’s another thing I miss as a superintendent
who no longer serves in the local church,
so I’ve decided to share my reflections on this throughout the fall season
when I preach, in my monthly newsletter message
and it will also be integrated within church conferences.
This morning I’d like us to spend some time on this year’s theme from our Annual Conference Session last May: “FISH.”
The key verse came from John 21:6—a resurrection appearance—
where Jesus was giving some words of direction
to his frustrated fishermen disciples he said:
“Throw your net on the other side of the boat and you will find some.”
I love the provocative image of what it means to cast your net…
as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
The scope and power of the image,
as well as the beauty and work of such a calling pulls at my heart.
And this morning, I want to lift up 3 key points I think Christ has for us to consider as we begin a new season of “Casting Our Nets” for Christ.
The First Point is that All Are Called.
Each of us is called to cast our net into the world
to reach others in the name of Christ.
And how we do that, & where we do that is as varied
as each of us sitting here this morning
or as unique as the 65 churches that make up the Northern Shore.
Each of us lives, works and plays within a different context—
there are countless ponds, lakes, rivers or oceans to fish.
We all have God-given gifts, skills and opportunities
to cast our net into a hurting and needy world.
But we have the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to cast our nets wide,
over and over again; to keep fishing for those who need
the love, hope and joy that comes in and through Jesus Christ.
All of us are called to lean out over the edge of whatever boat
that is holding us safe and secure (the church, home, job or school)—
and WORK the calling that God has given us to FISH…
for men and women, young and old, rich and poor,
neighbor and co-worker, family and strangers. Cast your Net!
The Second Point for us to consider today is to “Know What You Need.”
I have always had a special joy with fishing,
because my grandfather was a fisherman.
One of the greatest memories I have of my Poppa Jack
was watching him work a line off the Ocean Grove fishing pier.
But it wouldn’t just be off the pier, he also fished off a jetty, along the beach
& occasionally on a “party boat” from the Belmar Marina.
Every location required different equipment, an assortment of bait
& unique skills; and boy was he good at it.
My grandfather would take each of us 7 grandkids along with him on occasion,
and we learned many life lessons.
It was a gift of presence that revealed the love of a grandfather and the power of patience. I think that was 1 of the greatest lessons he taught me, patience.
My grandfather cast his net in so many ways throughout his life.
He caught fish that was the meal for his family
He reeled in his grandkids through the sport and fun of surf fishing—
and wound up giving us far more than a fish fry on Saturday night.
He cast his net of love & wisdom,
catching each of us in special ways that changed us forever.
No one knew my Grandpa shared his fish w/many people around the Grove,
Folk who he knew were experiencing difficult times.
He’d stop by with fresh flounder and the occasional snapper,
have a chat over a cup of coffee and leave enough fish for a few meals.
My Poppa Jack was a fisher for Christ in ways I know made a difference
over his 100 years of life.
Friends, as we cast our net for Christ, we will have countless opportunities…
and contexts in which we can make a difference.
What fishing equipment do we need to get the job done?
Where will we cast our net or drop a line?
For every place we hope to fish,
every context in which we seek to serve as Disciples—
different equipment, an assortment of bait & unique skills will be needed.
Who are the ones who can teach us how to fish?
Who can we take out on an adventure,
sharing the gift of presence, love and patience
as we teach them how to be fishers of men & women?
God calls us to cast our net—and part of our job is to acquire the skills,
equipment and knowledge of how to become awesome fishers for Christ.
This is why we worship each Sunday, attend Bible studies & Sunday School,
This is why 10 of you did the Appalachian Service Project.
This is why you have youth group, UMM and the UMW.
Why you have baptism classes and VBS.
This is why we have church conference each fall…
…yes even Church Conferences!!…
to vision for the ministries of our churches, to set goals,
to elect leaders and approve ministries.
This is why the GNJAC has launched coaching, PaCE/cohort Groups, Team Vital and Communities of Hope—
All to FISH for Christ & to cast our nets into a hurting and needy world.
My Grandfather’s last fishing trip was when he was 99,
along with 3 of us grandkids on a small charted boat in the Shark River Inlet.
Poppa Jack caught the largest fish of the day,
still schooling us on how to fish, maintain our equipment and…
treasure the small gifts of life—
love of family & patience for the work we are called to do.
Friends, cast your net! Drop a line!
Keep up with the tools, experience and knowledge you need
to be fishers for Christ. And invite someone to fish with you!
The Third and final lesson from Christ as we are casting our nets,
is to ask ourselves, “Who are We Hoping to Catch?”
We have a wonderful opportunity presented to us as United Methodists—
64% of all households in our district have NO religious affiliation!
That means for every 10 houses in a 2-3 block radius of this church or where you live—
have no place to feel the love, grace, peace and hope of Christ.
that will transform their lives forever
by being part of something bigger than they can imagine.
This is why we CAST OUR NETS!
The mission field is right on the same street that you live
and this neighborhood right here in Manahawkin. CAST YOUR NET!
Just yesterday at our first Super Saturday Church Conference event,
we offered a workshop entitled, “Evangelism in Context”—
unpacking what it means to invite others into a relationship with Christ,
either for the very first time or as an ever-deepening love.
But it also happens through:
the love of Christ into the community.
Where is God calling you to fish?
Who are you planning to catch?
What will you do when you bring in the haul?
We have to ask ourselves these questions!
Have you looked at the demographics of your towns & neighborhoods
through the conference resource of Mission Insight?
Have you explored what it means to rethink mission
as not only those who live across the oceans,
but to those who live across the street?
As the provocative cover on this morning’s bulletin indicates
and as Jesus taught so powerfully,
there are more fish to catch than we can imagine!
But isn’t it a joy-filled gift to just IMAGINE what we could do
with all those who we “net,” as we work together
growing in the love and grace of God?
Cast your Net!
Households right here in Manahawkin and where you live,
need exactly what you have to offer—the light, love and joy of Christ!
Throughout the upcoming year, may we continue to discover the power
and impact of Jesus’ challenge to Cast Our Net—
We are fishers for Christ…
The fish are biting…
And God is hopeful for the catch!
Amen and Amen!
Today Pastor Choi concludes his series on “How to Know God’s Will.” There are five ways of knowing God’s will. 1. Circumstances (Open/Closed Doors). 2. Family/Friends/Pastors. 3. Peace in Heart. 4. Dreams/Visions/Signs. 5. Word of God. He points out that the Word of God trumps all other ways of knowing God’s will. He ends his message with a personalized declaration of Romans 12:2.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
How to know God’s will? Part 3 of 3 Romans 12:2
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Begin the sermon with a scenario as follows: you received a check in the mail with $10,000 payable to you with a letter saying that a Mr. Generous in Africa who recently made a huge fortune in diamond mine wants to share it with you; just go to the bank, cash it out, and send back 10% to him in appreciation of his generosity and keep the rest to yourself.
What would you do with it? How would you discern God’s will in here for you?
Recap: Last week, we learned about a prerequisite for knowing God’s will: to get our hearts ready to do His will comes before we expect to know God’s will. In particular, we talked about three obstacles in the path of knowing God’s will: the unwillingness to come out of comfort zones, the failed acknowledgement of Jesus as the Lord, and the heart that seeks self-glory rather than God’s glory. When these obstacles are removed, then, we are 80% ready to know God’s will. The other 20% is how-to’s.
Let’s take a look at today’s verse one more time. Please turn to your bulletin to follow along as I read it to you, this time, with my commentaries.
And do not be conformed to this world [Stop being conformed to this world; stop bench-marking the world; stop imitating the world; stop being shaped by the worldly principles and stop living after them such as cravings/desires/lusts of the eyes/pride—1 John 2:16], but be transformed [keep being meta-morphow-ed (metamorphosis): constant and daily transformation] by the renewing of your mind [ana-kaino-sis: thorough renewing of your mind], so that [the end result] you may prove [do-ki-ma-zo: test and prove—potter testing clay vessels that he made against the light] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [acknowledge that every will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect for you].
Apostle Paul warns us here that bench-marking the world and living after its values and principles is dangerous and harmful for believers, because it will surely cloud our minds to discern God’s will (E.g. cataracts in the eye cloud vision). We ought to wash away the worldly influences from our minds and hearts with God’s Word and prayer. Paul also reminds us that it is our job to test and prove what God’s will is for us. No one will do it for us. We have to do it ourselves. Of course, God provides the tools to do the job, but still we need to do it. That’s what today’s sermon is all about: how to know God’s will.
Two kinds of God’s will: When it comes down to God’s will, there are two kinds: general and specific.
General will of God: is revealed in the written Word of God commonly called the Bible (Ephesians 1:9: He [God] made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him).
“General” means that it applies to all. E.g. Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 such as You shall have no other gods before Me, You shall not murder, You shall not steal,..). Also, be holy as God is holy (Leviticus 11:44). Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Specific will of God: “Specific” means that it only applies to certain individuals in their unique situations. E.g. Jesus’ death on the cross, …, Should I marry “John Doe” or “Jane Smith?” Should I take this new opportunity or not?
We can know God’s general will in the Scriptures. We also are most interested in knowing God’s specific will for us. Here’s a thing to remember between the two: the more familiar we are with God’s general will, the easier for us to know God’s specific will. The more we are trained in God’s Word, the easier to discern God’s specific will for us. Derek Prince once said, “A Christian who ignores his Bible has no right to hear from God.” In other words, unless we are willing to do God’s general will first, God wouldn’t bother revealing His specific will for us.
So, let’s proceed with that understanding.
How do we tell God’s will in specific situations?
There are five ways. God approves them all; He uses them all to reveal His will for us. All of them are attested in the Bible, too. Each way is practical; each one works and deserves our attention. We need to practice all five and familiarize ourselves with them so that we may understand God’s specific will for us.
How do we discern God’s specific will using the Bible? We do so through daily reading, not by random pick of the passage. E.g. A poor way of doing it is the ‘finger approach’: put your finger on a verse. One man just did that and his finger landed on a verse, “He went away and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5). “Not a very good verse,” he thought, and he did it again. This time he put his finger on the verse that said, “Go and do the same” (Luke 10:37). The third time is a charm, right? The third verse he found said, “What you do, do quickly” (John 13:27) (Leslie and Bernie Flynn, God’s Will: You Can Know It). E.g. 2. Going into an English speaking congregation, the Lord spoke to me through Moses’ encounter with God (Exodus 4:10-12).
All five ways work. However, God’s Word outweighs all others. In other words, when any of them are in conflict with God’s Word, God’s Word trumps everything else. All other means should align and match with God’s Word. If you don’t have affirmation of God’s Word, wait until you have one.
Let’s revisit our scenario of receiving the $10,000 check in the mail (by the way, a similar thing happened to me before; only the invitation came by email). E.g. You receive a check in the mail with $10,000 payable to you with a letter saying that a man in Africa made a fortune in diamond mine and he wants to share it with you; just go to the bank, cash it out, and send 10% to the sender and keep the rest to yourself. You might say, “Praise God!” But, wait! Before you drive to the bank, let’s go down the checklist here. Check #1: is this an open door? Sure, it is. You may even think God blesses you with this check. Check #2: Speak to your spouse about it. What would s/he say? Check #3: do you have God’s peace in you by doing that? Well, you kind of have a suspicion, but you still justify that you can use the money for good. Check #4: No dreams/ visions/ signs here, but you might remember the Chinese fortune cookie message the other day saying, “Something good is on your way.” Check #5: What does the Bible say? You might not have one in mind, but here’s one for you: Test every spirit (Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world—1 John 4:1). After this, you realize that this is a scam and you throw it into the trash can.
God wants us to know/ do His will every day and glorify Him. He is eager and ready to reveal His will to us. To know God’s will is not only possible but is also our duty. Let’s say to God that we will follow God’s will, whatever it takes, and then we will clearly know His will for us (Colossians 1:9— we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding).
Let’s end with a personalized declaration of Romans 12:2. To the Lord and to the world I declare: I will stop bench-marking this world. Instead, I will be transformed every day. I will renew my mind by getting into the Word of God. I will also renew my heart by prayer, so that I may test and prove what the will of God is for me, good and acceptable and perfect. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Today Pastor Choi talks about three obstacles to knowing God’s will for us: a. Insisting on staying on comfort zones. b. Refusing to acknowledge who Jesus is. c. Seeking one’s own glory, not God’s. He concludes his sermon with John 7:17: if anyone is willing to do His [God’s] will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
How to know God’s will? Part 2 of 3 John 7:10-24
John 7:10-24 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
10 But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret.11 So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and were saying, “Where is He?” 12 There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, “He is a good man”; others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He leads the people astray.” 13 Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.
14 But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach.15 The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” 16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
19 “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?”20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. 22 For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? 24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
Let me tell you a story of Jesus (John 5:1-18). One day He was walking in Jerusalem by a pool named Bethesda (house of mercy). Around the pool, there were a multitude of people who were sick, blind, lame, and withered. Day in day out, all of them were waiting for one thing: an angel of the LORD to come down at certain seasons and stir up the water; after the stirring up of the water, whoever first stepped in would be healed from whatever disease they had. You can imagine the competition among those folks: everyone wanted to be that first person! You can imagine many also solicited help from their families and friends.
Well, one of them was a man who had been sick for 38 years. That day Jesus met him and asked, “Do you wish to get well?” “Of course, sir,” the sick man answered, “However, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. Even though I try, while I am coming, another always steps down before me” (John 5:7). Then, Jesus said to him, “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And, immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk. So far so good, right?
However, it didn’t go well for Jesus. You see, the problem was that this thing happened on the day of Sabbath. The Jewish authorities saw the man walking home with his pallet and said, “Hey, it is the Sabbath, and you are not permitted to carry your pallet.” But, he answered, “The one who made me well asked me to do so.” They asked him, “Who is the man who asked you to do so?” “Jesus,” he answered. From then on, the Bible says, the Jewish authorities persecuted Jesus and tried to kill Him because He did these things on the Sabbath (John 5:16, 18). Keep this story in your mind as we proceed: the tension between the Jewish authorities and Jesus on the issue of breaking the Sabbath.
With that in mind, I am going to read to you today’s text one more time with a little bit of [my own commentaries].
10 But when His brothers had gone up to the feast [the Feast of Booths—five days after Yom Kippur, two weeks after Rosh Hashanah, 9/28/15. 7 day-festival of rejoicing and thanksgiving], then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret.
11 So the Jews [Not ordinary Jews but the Jewish authorities who were dead against Jesus—John 5:16] were seeking Him [On-going search effort with ill intention to arrest and kill Him (v. 19)] at the feast and were saying, “Where is He?”
12 There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, “He is a good man”; others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He leads the people astray.”
13 Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews [Jewish authorities].
14 But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach.
15 The Jews [Jewish authorities] then were astonished [Marveled: vexed], saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” [Learned (grammata—Scripture, letter, learning); How does He know so much of the Scripture when he was never educated—never been discipled / trained under any rabbi?].
16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. [Hey, you look for credentials? God is My Rabbi. My teaching is not mine. It is from God.]
17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. [Jesus saying, the reason why you don’t recognize Me and My teaching is because you are not interested in doing God’s will. If you do like I do, you will clearly know that My teaching is from God.]
18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. [Jesus points out here that He is seeking God’s glory not His own and that the heart of doing God’s will is the glory of God.]
19 “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” [What Jesus actually saying is this: You have no desire to please God. You are not interested in God’s glory, either. Your heart is not there. Therefore, you don’t keep God’s law. Instead, you try to kill Me who carries out God’s will and keep His Law.]
20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! [Terrible way to acknowledge God’s Son] Who seeks to kill You?”
21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. [Jesus refers to healing of the sick on the day of Sabbath in John 5].
22 For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man.
23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me [Bitter with me— taste of gall, poison: cf. Matthew 27:34] because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? [Greek root for “break” also means to destroy. In order not to destroy the Law of circumcision, you say it’s O.K. to circumcise (that is, a work) even on the Sabbath. On the Sabbath, I too worked in order to restore this man to full health whose health was destroyed for 38 years. And, you accuse me of breaking the Law?”]
24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” [Think and act in God’s perspective, not in your own narrow prejudice].
Last Sunday, we learned that God wants us to know/understand/do His will. Whether we live out His will (or not) will determine our eternal destination (Matthew 7:21-23). I also pointed out that doing God’s will is not an option: it’s a must and a genuine Christian experience for every child of God. Today, as part 2 of 3, we are going to think about some obstacles that stand in the way of knowing God’s will. Before we expect to know God’s will, we must clear these obstacles.
We find three obstacles in today’s text in Jesus’ dialogue with the religious leaders: three “No’s” in knowing God’s will. If you do these three, you will never be able to know God’s will. If you avoid these three, you will be able to clearly discern His will.
a. Insisting on staying on comfort zones. The Jewish authorities refused to change the status quo. Their attitude was “Don’t rock the boat” attitude. They refused to be changed/ challenged by God and His Word. That’s why they hated Jesus when He confronted them with truth. Remember Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath? He challenged them not to pass judgment on Him by outward appearance but by righteous judgment. Yet, they refused to do so insisting on their own ways only: Don’t heal people on the Sabbath. This attitude tells God: Don’t ask me to give up what I love. Don’t ask me to sacrifice my comfort. Don’t ask me to carry my cross. You carry one for me instead. Don’t ask me to love You more than my own family. Don’t ask me to give up my TV time for reading your Word and pray. Don’t ask me to forgive my enemies. Don’t ask me to give more than one hour on Sunday morning. Don’t ask me….
b. Refusing to acknowledge who Jesus is: There was one individual whom the Jewish authorities respected the most: Moses, right next to God. To the point where Torah, God’s Law, was commonly called the Law of Moses (v. 23). They revered Moses with the highest esteem. Consider this time how they treated Jesus. They called Him: 1. Misleading the crowd (v. 12) 2. Uneducated (v. 15). 3. Crazy, demon-possessed (v. 20). Don’t you think their treatment of Jesus clearly reflects their attitude toward Him? Furthermore, their treatment of Jesus demonstrates their knowledge (in this case, total ignorance) of God’s will. Attitude determines treatment and treatment determines the knowledge of Jesus. The knowledge of Jesus determines that of God’s will. E.g. I was visiting members at a local hospital once. I overheard a nurse using the name “Jesus” in vain. It gives away how she regards and treats Jesus. God would never reveal His will to those who refuse to acknowledge Jesus with respect. Ask yourself who Jesus is to you. If He is the Lord and Savior as you confess, treat Him likewise. Don’t fool yourself saying that He is your Lord yet never obey His Word. God will not be fooled with our hypocrisy. He only reveals His will to those who properly acknowledge Jesus.
c. Seeking one’s own glory/desires/greed, not God’s glory. What blinded the religious leaders was that they didn’t seek God’s glory and honor. With lips, yes, they did: all the time. Yet, in their hearts, they didn’t. That’s what Jesus was able to see all the time: seeking one’s own glory not God’s. I don’t think such attitude has changed a lot even among God’s children today. There are too many believers who seek their own interests, desires, and wishes in the name of God’s will. E.g. A man is hanging for his life on a branch sticking out on a cliff. “Help!” he cried out. “Is anyone out there? Please help!” No one came. A few seconds later, he began to pray to God: “God, please help me!” Somehow, he felt his prayer was heard. Sure enough, there came a voice from heaven, saying, “Did you call Me?” The man said, “Yes, Lord, I did. Please help me!” God said, “Do you really want Me to help you?” “Yes, please and quickly, because I am about to fall!” God said, “Let go of the branch, then.” The man couldn’t believe what he just heard. “Lord, did you really say to let go of the branch?” God said, “Yes.” The man said, “No, really, you don’t mean that!” God replied, “I mean it. If you let go of the branch, you shall live.” The man thought for a while and began to shout, “Is anyone else out there? Please help!”
John 7:17 is the key verse: If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. Have you noticed that this sentence is conditional? In other words, when the condition is fulfilled, the following promise will be fulfilled as well. God says to us, “Make your heart ready to do My will, then I will make My will known to you.” Do you want to know God’s will? Learn to put your own desire aside and seek God’s glory and honor first. E.g. The late Father Archer Torrey: “Willingness to do God’s will is the key to knowing God’s will. We are 80% ready.” Learn to put yourself neutral, meaning “Either way, Lord, I will be faithful to You.” Positive example: Jesus’ own prayer on Gethsemane. “Not as I will, but as You will.”
Be willing to move out of your comfort zone. Acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus and listen to Him. Seek God’s glory, not yours. Then, you are ready to know and do His will for you in your life.
Next week: 5 ways to discern God’s will for you.
Pastor Choi talks about knowing God’s will today. As part 1 of 3 series, he exposes four spiritual lies concerning knowing God’s will among God’s children: 1.You don’t have to know God’s will. 2. You don’t deserve to know God’s will. 3. It is impolite to inquire of God’s will. 4. It is impossible to know God’s will. He exhorts God’s people to seek God’s will and accomplish God’s work in their daily lives.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
How to know God’s will? Part 1 of 3 Ephesians 1:9
Ephesians 1:9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.
For the next three Sundays, we are going to learn about God’s will for His children, that is, for you and me. It is essential for us to know God’s will for our daily lives. This is my favorite subject to preach. In fact, in my 25 years of preaching, knowing God’s will was the second most popular sermon topic (#1 was Anger). This is what we are going to do: today, we are going to consider why it is necessary for us to know God’s will. Next Sunday, we will lay the foundations of knowing God’s will by removing the obstacles in knowing His will. Following Sunday, we will talk about five practical applications of how to know God’s will. I pray that all of us will benefit from this sermon series.
One of the greatest tragedies in the Christian world today is that many of us believe in lies regarding God’s will for us. I can identify four lies.
#1. That we don’t have to know God’s will for us. That’s a big fat lie that Satan whispers to our ears. Here’s why we should never believe in his lie. While God wants us to have an abundant life in Jesus, our enemy wants to steal, kill and destroy us (John 10:10). While God wants us to walk in the light, the devil wants us to stay in darkness. While God wants us to live in love, joy, peace, and righteousness, our enemy wants to keep us in discontent, lusts, envy, hate, and un-forgiveness. Many of us are so unfamiliar with God’s will for us that we end up living our lives like non-believers according to own fleshly desires. The bottom-line is: God repeatedly says to us, “Know My will and don’t settle for less.” Say after me, please: I will know God’s will for me. I will not settle for less.
#2. That we don’t deserve to know God’s will for us. Don’t forget you are God’s child, not a slave. God wants every child of His to be fully assured in every will of God (Colossians 4:12). If you believe that you are not worthy to know His will for you, it is the same as telling yourself that you are a slave who doesn’t deserve to know what your father is doing. Listen again: you are God’s child; therefore, you have the right to know His will. You are not a slave or an outsider. You are a member of God’s family. Listen to Jesus who already said that you are in the know: No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you (John 15:15). Say after me once more: I am a child of God. I have every right to know my Father’s will for me.
#3. That it is impolite to inquire of God’s will from Him (this is equal to keeping Him as an impersonal and indifferent God from our daily struggles). It is like us asking a child never to ask what her parents expect her to do. Our Father in Heaven never frowns upon us when we ask about His will for us. He welcomes our inquiries on His will; that’s a sure sign of a healthy relationship between us and God. Furthermore, it is God who commands us to ask for God’s will and His wisdom (But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him—James 1:5). Here’s another promise: This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us—1 John 5:14). Repeat after me: I will ask for God’s will with confidence every day.
#4. That it is impossible for us to know God’s will (this is equal to agnosticism). This lie is so contradictory to the Scripture which says it is possible to know God’s will. How? First, God reveals His will to us both generally (applies to all) and specifically (applies to individuals). Take the Ten Commandments, for instance. They are God’s will for all people, aren’t they? He also reveals His will that applies to a specific individual (e.g. ‘Should I take this job or not?). Next, God reveals His will when we ask. Listen to what Jesus says: ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you (Matthew 7:7). So, when asked by His children about God’s will, God keeps His promise and let us know His will. Please repeat after me: it is absolutely possible to know God’s will for me by asking for it.
The point is this: knowing God’s will is not an option. It is a must for every believer to know God’s will so that we may lead an abundant life in Christ. Say after me, please: I must know God’s will for me. Please keep in mind here: living out God’s will is an integral part of genuine Christian experience, not a special and isolated experience for a few believers. God wants you to be familiar with His will. Say after me one more time: God wants me to know His will. Without knowing God’s will, we won’t be able to distinguish from what is pleasing to the Lord and what is not. We will waste our time and energy, sometimes for years, on things earthly that don’t last or things that don’t matter to God thinking that they do. The end result will be eternally tragic. E.g. Matthew 7: 21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
Doing God’s will is not an occasional thing. It is an everyday thing. It should be daily practice like the way we breathe and eat (John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work”). We pray daily the Lord’s Prayer which says, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” ‘On earth’ also means ‘in our daily lives.’ We are to say to God, “Your will be done in my life today and every day.”
What’s the benefit of knowing God’s will? Three benefits: First, there is no waste of our time and energy in daily situations. For instance, Jesus commands us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We would bless them, not curse, when we know His will. When we know what’s pleasing to the Lord and what’s not, we won’t waste any breath on wrong prayers, either.
Next, the knowledge of God’s will helps us to live our lives to the fullest. By understanding His will, we will learn to do God’s will. By doing God’s will, we will accomplish what God wants us in our lives and in our relationships. E.g. Do not let the Sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26). This will lower adrenalin and give us a better life.
Thirdly, it shapes our character into a Christ-like image. The more faithfully we follow God’s will day in and day out, the more our character will become like that of Jesus.
It is God’s will for us to know God’s will. He expects us to live out His will in our daily lives (“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother”—Matthew 12:50). He reveals His will to us (Ephesians 1:9). He prepares us with everything good to do His will (Hebrews 13:21). He rewards those who do God’s will with eternal blessings (1 John 2:17).
Why do we need to know God’s will for us? So that we may understand His will and not be a fool (Ephesians 5:17). So that we may live out as God wants us. So that we may accomplish His work. So that we may walk close with God. So that we may faithfully and effectively live out God’s purpose for us here on earth, that is, to advance His Kingdom on earth. He wants us to know His will (Acts 22:14). He wants us to understand His will (Ephesians 5:17). He wants us to do His will (Matthew 7:21).
Closing prayer: Our Father in Heaven, Your will be done in my life today and every day. You expect me to know Your will. I want to know Your will, too. I am Your child. I have every right to know Your will for me. It is absolutely possible to know Your will, because You reveal it to me. I must know Your will. I humbly ask for Your will every day. I will not settle for less. In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.
Today Pastor Choi expounds on Jesus’ blessing of little children. In the time of Jesus, children were not treated equally as adults. Jesus changed that understanding and gave a fresh look on children as follows: 1) The Kingdom of God is theirs. Be like them. 2) Receive God’s Kingdom with simple heart, with sincerity, and with humility like a child does. At the end, Jesus fervently blessed the children that they would walk humbly with God throughout their lives.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Blessing of Children Mark 10:13-16
Mark 10:13-16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Jesus Blesses Little Children
13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.
Before I do my sermon, I would like to give you background info on the status of children in the time of Jesus. Back then, children along with women were not counted in number in any gatherings. E.g. Jesus’ miracle of feeding 5,000 men with five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:21). Children were often “presented as either examples of unreasonable behavior or objects to be trained” (Jerome Bible Commentary, p. 618). They were surely less important than adults and often treated as a second class citizen in society.
Enter that understanding into today’s text. Here’s what was happening: One day Jesus was engaged in a serious teaching session with folks on divorce (Mark 10:1-12). Then, a few parents and grandparents brought their children to Jesus with a hope that He would touch them (v. 13). As soon as the disciples of Jesus saw them approaching their Master, they rebuked (and shooed them away) both adults and children (v. 13). The disciples believed that their Rabbi shouldn’t be bothered or diverted from teaching by anyone else, let alone by little children! Well, they immediately found out how wrong their assumption was about their Master. As soon as Jesus realized what was going on, He got indignant (v. 14).
Now, the word ‘indignant’ is a very strong word. Not often, Jesus got angry or displeased: I know of only three occasions in the New Testament when He was displeased—eight times He said “woe to you” to the hypocrites (Matthew 23), twice “woe to you” to those unrepentant cities where He demonstrated many miracles (Matthew 11:21), once He overturned tables and chairs in the Temple of God and whipped out the money changers, the sellers and buyers of animals from the Temple court (Matthew 21:12). This time, Jesus surely got upset with the way the disciples treated the children. He directly expressed his anger toward the disciples. Then, He gave them a fresh lesson on how to think about and treat the children.
He said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (v. 14). My translation of the sentence– ‘the kingdom of God belongs to such as these’– is this: the Kingdom of God is theirs! Seldom in the New Testament did Jesus give to anyone such an assurance that ‘the Kingdom of God is yours!’ E.g. He did in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Another time to the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:43– And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise”). Other than that, very few times to very few people. But here, He clearly says that children will be in God’s Kingdom. It is theirs!
I am a firm believer that children indeed have a very special place in God’s heart. I also believe that when children die unexpectedly, they will be brought directly to God’s presence. E.g. During the medieval times, the Catholic Church taught that baptism is necessary for salvation; infant baptism was crucial among folks, because the infant mortality rate was rather high, so the parents wanted to make sure that their children went to Heaven in case they died young. My personal belief is that when children die young, below their age of accountability, baptism or no baptism, they go to Heaven.
Anyway, Jesus continues on here in v. 15 with this teaching moment: Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all (v. 15). Two places deserve our attention here: First, Truly I say to you—(verily I say unto you—KJV). My translation would be this: I am telling you the truth! I am not kidding you! Take it seriously!
Then, Jesus goes on saying, “…whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” My translation of the same sentence would be: Unless anyone receives the Kingdom of God like a child, s/he will never, ever enter it. The Greek grammar of double negation (ου μη ) is not affirmative, but emphasis on the zero possibility of getting into the Kingdom of God. That’s why we’d better pay attention to it. Once again, what makes it a zero chance to make into God’s presence? The way we receive the Kingdom of God.
Let’s think about the meaning of receiving the Kingdom of God for a while. What does it mean to receive God’s Kingdom? My study of the Bible and prayers convince me as follows: to receive God’s Kingdom means first, the way we hear about God’s Kingdom, and next, the way we understand it and keep God’s commandments. In other words, to receive God’s Kingdom means the way we take God’s Kingdom in our thoughts, words, and actions. To receive God’s Kingdom means to hear and understand what Jesus says about it and put it into practice day in day out. Only hearing without practice and only intellectual understanding without daily practice wouldn’t cut it. It must include the put-into-action part! That’s what it means to receive the Kingdom of God.
So, Jesus says here unless we hear/understand/ put into practice like a child does of what Jesus says about the Kingdom of God, we will not make it. So, the next question for us is this: how does a child receive God’s Kingdom? Two things come to my mind. First, the child takes it with a simple heart and mind. When the child hears the Gospel, the child takes it with a simple faith. No complications, no doubts, no reasoning, but just believing. E.g. All the high-criticism methods in theological circles in the 19th and 20th century killed the simple spirit of faith. E.g.2. Drought in the South. A church called for a prayer meeting for rain. Only one girl came to the meeting with an umbrella.
Next, to be childlike means no hypocrisy. Remember how much Jesus disliked the hypocrisy of adult religious leaders? I always try to be sincere in my personal and professional life and I always learn from a child to be so. E.g. A son asks for $10 from his father—Dad, can I have $10? Simple and to the point, right? Imagine the child making the request with big words: “Oh, my benevolent Father, I daily thank you for your loving kindness for me. Would you kindly consider helping your loving child who is in desperate need of $10?”
Let us receive the Kingdom of God in simple faith and with sincerity.
Immediately after His teaching, Jesus did one of the best things He did for the children: Blessing. You know, in my humble opinion, the adults who brought the children to Jesus got more than what they had hoped for. Originally, all they wanted from Him was a touch (v. 13). But, in the end, this is what they got: He embraced them, laid His hands on them, and blessed them (v. 16).
Picture yourself: Jesus taking one child at a time, hugging one child at a time, laying His both hands on one child at a time, and blessing one after another! The Greek tense of the verb ‘to lay hands’ is present: that means ‘repeated action.’ In other words, He kept laying His hands on the children until all were blessed! One commentator says this way: “He (Jesus) fervently blessed them. The Saviour (sic) lifted up to His Father, in behalf of the little ones, the fervent desires of His heart, and thus invoked ‘down’ upon them a blessing” (James Morison, A Practical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Mark, p. 282).
I wonder what kind of blessing or ‘fervent desires of His heart’ Jesus bestowed upon each child? Do you think it was all about things down here such as health, prosperity, and wealth? Like, “I bless you my child so that you become Miss America, so that you go to Harvard, so that you become a billionaire?” Or, did He truly put His heart onto the blessing that eternally matters; the blessing that reflects His fervent desires for each child? I believe this is what’s inside of Jesus’ blessing: each child to become a true child of God; to know God, to love God with all their hearts and minds, to love their neighbors, and to keep God’s commandments. I believe He blessed them so that they would walk humbly with God throughout their lives and hear and do what Jesus has commanded them to.
Whenever we have children’s presence with us, let us remember how Jesus treated them: He welcomed them, He embraced them, He laid His hands on them, and He fervently blessed them. Let us imitate our Lord and do the same with our children. Let us also remember what He says about the Kingdom of God and receive God’s Kingdom with a simple and believing heart and keep Jesus’ Word without hypocrisy.
Today Pastor Choi talks about the promise of Parousia (Jesus’ Second Coming). He encourages the congregation to carefully examine Peter’s explanation of the delay of Parousia threefold: The Lord is faithful to keep His promise. The Lord is patient to give a chance to everyone to come to repentance. The Lord expects us to stay alert in prayer spotless and blameless while we await Jesus’ Second Coming.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Jesus’ Second Coming (Parousia)
2 Peter 3:1-15 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Purpose of This Letter
3 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.
The Coming Day of the Lord
3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
A New Heaven and Earth
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation;
Today Pastor Choi concludes his sermon series on the adequacy of God. Expounding on Paul’s assertion that nothing or no one in the universe can separate God’s elect from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior, he assures God’s people that God is resolved to keep them eternally secure in Christ’s love.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Who Can Separate Us? Romans 8:31-39
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Personalize today’s text with the congregation (will come back to that later).
Let me read to you again vv. 31-34 paraphrased in my own words.
V.31: What can I say about life that is full of surprises, temptation, challenges, discouragement, and despair? In moments of struggle, I will remember who’s on my side! God is! If God is for me, no one and nothing stands a chance (by the way, my enemy the Devil knows this quite well and sees this all the time. Sadly, however, it is I who forget and often fail to see this spiritual truth).
V. 32: Do I know how much God loves me? He gave up His most precious Son and willingly sent Him to the cross to pay the wages of my sin. That’s how much He loves me. If that’s the case, I am sure the same God will also give me all things freely with Jesus for my eternal happiness and joy.
V. 33: (Now, I am speaking to the Devil and to those who oppose me). If you think about bringing a charge against me, God’s elect, think again. Who do you think you are dealing with? God ! He is the Supreme Judge of One and He is my Father. Yes, you heard me right. My loving Father.
V. 34: You think you can condemn me, God’s elect? Wake up, because you have zero chance of convicting me. Why? Because Christ has already taken care of my punishment at the cross and it is forever effective! His action covers sins of my past, present, and even sins of my future. Don’t forget the same Christ now at the right hand of God makes intercessions for me 24/7 and the Judge always listens to Him.
Recap: In the past three Sundays, we talked about the adequacy of God. God is sufficient for all our needs, problems, and challenges. In the first week, we discovered that God is our Sovereign Protector. The best way to counter the fear of opposition is to know that our God is greater than any challenges and hardships we face in life. In the following week, we learned that God is our Sovereign Benefactor. Not only does God know our needs, but He also provides them all and doesn’t withhold anything good from us. With such trust in God, we counter the fear of privation. In the third week, we countered the fear of rejection by God; the Scripture assures us that once God declares that we are chosen and justified, that’s final and eternal. No one can review His verdict. He is our Sovereign Judge and Champion.
Today, as the conclusion of the series, I would like to speak about God as our Sovereign Keeper. He keeps us eternally secure in Christ’s love. Like Krazy glue that keeps two objects together, Christ’s love brings God and us together and keeps us together forever. No separation from Christ’s love can ever befall us. No one or nothing in the world can separate us from God’s love.
In verses 35 through 39, Paul reveals the eternal truth in the relationship between God and us His elect. We are eternally secure in God’s love.
Paul repeats twice in v. 35 and v. 39 that nothing (either visible or invisible) and no creature (natural or supernatural) in the entire universe can separate us from the love of Christ and from the love of God in Christ. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ?… 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Separate (v. 35, v. 39): Let’s consider the verb ‘to separate.’ This verb is used in the New Testament in the following contexts: divorce (Matthew 19:6), separation of body and spirit (James 2:26), and departure from one place (Acts 1:4). Basically, it is to cause things apart and keep them apart. E.g. In particle physics, scientists probe fundamental structure of universe with an attempt to separate particles through collision at the speed of light (e.g. molecule—atom—proton (+)—neutron—electron (-)— protons and neutrons are made of three quarks each). Let me tell you: even the most sophisticated instrument in the world cannot separate us from God’s love. That’s how strongly we are secured in God’s love.
Sheep to be slaughtered (v. 36): In verse 36, Paul remembers what he has been through in his life. Indeed, he has been through numerous challenges that none of us will ever go through. In his own words, he was daily delivered over to death (2 Corinthians 4:11). How did he feel in the midst of his trials? Dead. Done. The last day of my life. He puts this way in v. 36: Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered” (Psalm 44:22).
Many a time, Paul must have felt dead when things were tough. Have you ever felt like that before? I am dead. I am done for. I am at the end of my rope. I have no energy to carry on. Have you ever felt like just giving up since there’s nothing you can do about the situation? Like a lamb on the way to be slaughtered?
In all things (v. 37). Paul is speaking from his own life’s experiences. In all things, good and bad, easy and tough, he’s been there and done that. All kinds of situations you and I face. In all things.
We Overwhelmingly Conquer (v. 37): I don’t think Paul is exaggerating here. Rather, he is honest. Through it all, he says: I overcame life. In all those situations, he declares, that he came out as the victor not as a victim. He came out strong and as a winner. All the time. Without exception. Pay attention to the verb ‘conquer’ here. The Greek word (υπερ-νικωμεν) means conquer thoroughly— over and over again. Win big time! Every time.
Through Him who loved us (v. 37): Paul didn’t forget to give proper credit for his victory to the Right One. Who makes his victory possible? Not he but God who loves him (v. 37). Not through his own might but through God and His mighty power (Ephesians 6:10). He points out to the same source of his triumph again in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “What is the key to a triumphant life?” you may ask. Paul says, “It is the love of God. Ultimately, God.” God and His unwavering love for us help us to prevail in all life’s circumstances.
I am convinced (v. 38): Based on his life experience, Paul boldly declares the truth: 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul is not repeating someone’s abstract theology that God is the source of victorious life. He speaks from his heart and from his experience. “Based on my life,” he concludes, “I am fully convinced that we are secure in God’s love.” The very bottom of God’s adequacy for us is love. Here’s one believer who is eternally secure in God’s unfailing love.
E.g. Hussein was 9 years old. He and his family are believers in Christ living in Turkey. In Turkey, even though it is a secular state, more than 96% people claim to be a Muslim. Christians are unwelcome in many parts of Turkey, despite government claims and a constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. Without his parents’ knowing, Hussein publicly proclaimed his faith in Jesus by wearing a cross necklace to school. When his classmates saw the cross, some of them spat and swore at him. He was threatened and bullied by his peers. Some hit Hussein in the head and stomach with their fists, while others threw rocks at him and beat him with sticks. Tears streamed from Hussein’s eyes, and he screamed in pain as the boys dragged him along the ground by the shirt. His trouble didn’t stop there. Every student in the class was required to write and recite the shahada, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.” Hussein would not compromise his faith by reciting the shahada. Annoyed by his disobedience, the religion teacher, an imam, hit him with a wooden rod about 2 feet long and as big around as a quarter. Hussein endured repeated beatings for refusing to recite the shahada. “I don’t like saying it,” he explains. “It isn’t in my heart; it is just meaningless words to me.” After suffering more than three weeks of beatings by the imam, Hussein began to have severe seizures. Hussein’s parents transferred him to a different school, where he experiences fewer attacks. Hussein, now 11, says he would never return to Islam even if forced to endure worse abuse. “Christ said we would suffer for him,” he says. “It’s okay to suffer for Christ, and we should be happy to suffer for Christ. The Lord is with me.” [pp. 6-7, The Voice of the Martyrs, April 2012].
No persecution or beatings can separate Hussein from Christ’s love. Nothing will separate us from God’s love, either. We are more than conquerors in Christ. Go in peace today with such a conviction that God is your Sovereign Keeper. He is resolved to keep you forever in His love. Amen.
Invite the congregation to read together in one voice today’s text personalized as below.
31 What then shall I say to these things? If God is for me, who is against me ?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for me, how will He not also with Him freely give me all things?33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for me.35 Who will separate me from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake I AM being put to death all day long;
I WAS considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things I overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved me.38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus my Lord.
Today Pastor Choi speaks of God’s justifying grace in Christ. We God’s elect are saved and justified in Christ’s merit by grace, not by our own. Pastor Choi also urges the congregation never to believe Satan’s accusations, to remember Jesus the Defender and His constant intercessions on our behalf, and that God is the Judge whose verdict upon us is final and eternal.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Who Will Accuse Us? Romans 8:33-34
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?
God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
Previously, we talked about our fears of opposition and privation. In the first week, I said that no fears or challenges in life are greater than God our Sovereign Protector. In moments of panic, let us declare “If God is for me, who is against me?” In the second week, I talked about God as our Sovereign Benefactor who doesn’t withhold anything good from us. In moments of worry, let us declare “God provides all my needs.”
Today, as part 3 of the series on the adequacy of God, we are going to think about God as our Sovereign Champion and the decisiveness of God’s justifying verdict upon us. More specifically, we will counter the fear of rejection by God. Say after me, “I am God’s elect. Christ is my Redeemer. God is my Champion. ”
Have you ever been in a situation where you did something wrong before God? Repeatedly? Do you feel so terrible and hopeless that you believe you don’t deserve God’s favor anymore in terms of salvation? After serious moral lapses, you feel God has rejected you; or worse, you feel that you deserve to be rejected by God.
E.g. There were days when I fell into the same temptation over and over again. I felt terrible. I went to the Lord for the couple of times for forgiveness of my sins. However, after three or four times, I began to hear Satan’s accusation telling me, “Shame on you. Don’t even think about going back to God, because He will not take you back this time!” For a while, I believed him and indeed stopped going to God for forgiveness and remained miserable despising myself. In those days of struggle, one thing I didn’t stop was reading the Bible. One day God spoke to me through Peter’s story. That day His word forever changed me, set me free from Satan’s accusation and doubting God’s forgiveness: 21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22, NASB).
If Jesus asks me, I reasoned myself, to forgive my brother who sins against me for 490 times, He would forgive me for the same number of times if not more! After this, I kept going to God for forgiveness and eventually overcame the temptation and Satan’s accusation no more! Praise the Lord!
Here is a typical pattern in our daily struggle with sin: sins committed, accusation follows, guilt and shame set in, forgiveness sought and granted, then new beginning. We sin, Satan accuses, Jesus redeems, God forgives, and we start anew.
In today’s verses, verses 33-34, we see some legal terms used in the days of Paul: bring a charge, condemn, justify, and intercede. Imagine the Heavenly Court: God the Judge sitting on throne, Satan the Accuser, Jesus Christ as the Defender. Satan the adversary brings a charge against us presenting before the court all the bad things we have done in life. We in vain try to defend ourselves by presenting all of our own deeds and achievements.
By the way, all our good deeds are considered in the sight of God filthy rags: For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; (Isaiah 64:6, NASB). Then, Christ the Defender comes in saying, “Father, I invoke Your mercy on this man/woman. According to Your will, I paid the wages of his/her sin through my own blood. I died for this man/woman. Therefore, forgive him/her, for he/she doesn’t know what he/she is doing.” God says, “Amen! The case is closed.” The gavel falls. Then, we go free spared from condemnation – the sentence to eternal judgment/separation from God.
The Bible calls this act of God justification—God’s act of accepting us sinners on the merit of Christ’s death (because through His death He paid the wages of our sins once and for all). The Bible also calls such God’s love justifying grace. Grace is the free gift of God that cannot be purchased or earned by human merits. The only thing we can do for such God’s saving grace is to accept it with gratitude.
E.g. William MacDonald wrote as follows: “To seek to earn, merit, or purchase salvation is to insult the Giver. Imagine yourself invited to a banquet in the White House by the President of the United States. You are seated at a table that is filled with the choicest foods. Every effort is made to give you a most enjoyable evening. At the end of a lovely visit, the president stands at the front door to bid you good-bye. What do you do? As you leave, do you press a dime into his hand and say, ‘Thank you very much for your kindness. I have enjoyed the evening very much. I realize it has cost you a lot of money, and I want to help you pay for the meal’? Is that the proper response to his kindness? On the contrary, it is a rude and insulting gesture. So it would be with God’s grace.” [William MacDonald, The Grace of God].
Because of God’s grace, and because of what His son Jesus has done at the cross, even though we absolutely deserve to be condemned to eternal punishment, God lets us go free. We are justified in Christ by grace.
Remember no sin is too grave for God to forgive except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29) — to blaspheme means to speak evil of the Holy Spirit and what He does (2 Peter 2:2, Matthew 12:31). No matter how gross your sins may be, they cannot endanger your justified status. Rest assured that no accusation will ever disinherit you.
This time let’s think of our daily life. The same court scene in the spiritual realm happens right here on earth in our mind and heart: we get into daily sins, both intentional and unintentional. Then, our enemy Satan starts accusing us based on all the wrongs we have done. At this very stage, completely forgetting about what Jesus has done, many of us simply accept his accusations and admit that he is right. So ashamed of our deeds, we are filled with guilt. We begin to believe in Satan’s lie that we no longer deserve God’s grace and forgiveness. Stop right there. At that very moment of guilt and shame, we must remember where Jesus is and what He is doing for us. He is at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34). He fiercely defends us with what He has done on the cross. And, the final verdict is always the same: God the Judge says to us, “What Jesus has done is forever effective. The wages of your sin have been paid. You are my child. Grace is extended. Forgiveness is granted. You are free to go.”
The Scripture declares that our justification is final and eternal. God doesn’t change His mind switching on and off of our eternal destination depending on how good/bad we are. The election is a done deal. It is final. There’s no change. It is irrevocable: for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29, NASB). We are sealed with God’s grace for eternal redemption.
Therefore, go in peace today. Go in an unwavering assurance that God has called you to be His child and He never repents. His election of you never changes. So, when you sin against God and against people next time, and when you struggle with guilt and shame afterwards, simply go to God’s throne room in repentance and humility, stand before God, see Jesus standing by you as defender and call for His help. Then, go in peace and sin no more.
Never ever believe in Satan’s accusation no matter how true they may sound, because he is a liar from the very beginning of creation. Listen to what Jesus says about him: He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44, NASB). Rather, remember who intercedes for you 24/7. You have two allies: Jesus (Romans 8:34) and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27). They both intercede for you day in day out. Trust in what Christ has done for you. He died on the cross for you once and for all. His death covers your sins in the past, sins in the present, and sins in the future. Never believe in Satan’s lie that you have lost your salvation in Christ due to your sins. Never believe in his lie that you don’t deserve God’s grace. Never fall into his tactic of shaming you into the guilt that keeps you from coming to God. Never fall into his deception that God has rejected you.
When you have sinned against God and people, come to God in humility, confess your sins, ask for forgiveness in Jesus’ name, thank Him for another chance to make up, and restore your relationship with Him.
Say after me, “I will not believe in Satan’s lie! I am God’s elect. Christ is my Redeemer! God is my Champion! ”
Let us pray.
The people of Manahawkin Methodist helped families who were temporarily out of their houses to feel home again. During the week of August 2-9, three families stayed with us in God’s love and care.
to all who made this possible
for the families!
Today Pastor Choi continues his series on God’s Adequacy as our sovereign Benefactor. God provides us all things good with Christ. All things ‘good’ are defined by God not by us. All things good never means a plethora of possessions, either. It rather has everything to do with being with God, knowing God, and enjoying Him. Finally, Pastor Choi exhorts God’s people to give God all they have—their complete trust and absolute loyalty.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
No Good Thing Is Withheld Romans 8:32
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32, NASB)
Last Sunday, I talked about the adequacy of God as our sovereign Protector. When it comes down to human fears, God is greater than all of them and all the challenges we face in our lives. As our protector, He never forgets or overlooks our needs. He listens to our cries. Our trust in God surely quells the panic.
Today, we will continue on God’s adequacy as our sovereign Benefactor. He provides all things we need: spiritual, emotional, and physical. Today’s Scripture, verse 32, declares that God who didn’t spare His own Son for our salvation never withholds anything good from us both in this life and in the life to come. Do you believe that with no doubt? I do. In fact, I asked myself: Based on my life experience, will I solemnly testify that God indeed withholds nothing good from me? The answer is a resounding “YES!”
Let me read to you today’s verse one more time: He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
God did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all: Why did God send His own Son Jesus to the cross to die on our behalf? Because He loves us. Why would He give us all things freely? Because He loves us. God is love and His love is the foundation of our relationship with God.
Think for a moment. Don’t you think it easier for God to keep to Himself the most precious possession and give us the rest? That’s what the noblest parents in the world would do for others: having to choose between their own children and their most cherished possessions, they would give up possessions holding onto their children. In fact, that’s what we all would do: between our children and anything else we cherish, we would give up everything but keep our children. Here’s the twist. God didn’t. He delivered over His own Son His most precious Child as a ransom for us. That tells us how much He loves us when we don’t deserve such love and grace. By the way, the word “deliver” is to hand over. It is the same word used when Judas Iscariot delivered Jesus over to the Jewish authorities. God loved us so much that He handed over His own Son to death. He didn’t spare His own Son so as to spare us from the judgment over our sins and iniquities. Think about that! How amazing that is! If God loves us that much, Paul says, will He also not give us all other things free?
How will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Verse 32 reminds us that God freely gives us all things good with Christ. Key phrase: with Him. All things come to us with Jesus in a package deal. Christ, God’s Gift, is the box. All things are in it. You accept the box, open it, and enjoy everything in it. Same thing with Christ and good things. Accept Christ and receive all things good in Him, all the blessings that come along with Him and in Him. Reject Christ, and reject all God’s blessings. You cannot have Christ without all things good. You cannot have all good things apart from Christ, either. They are inseparable. Here’s a good story. The Painting of the Son.
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son. About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.
He said, ‘Sir, you don’t know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art.’ The young man held out the package. ‘I know this isn’t much. I’m not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.’
The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. ‘Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It’s a gift.’
The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.
The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection. On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. ‘We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?’ There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, ‘We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one.’ But the auctioneer persisted. ‘Will somebody bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?’ Another voiced angrily. ‘We didn’t come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Gogh’s, the Rembrandt’s. Get on with the real bids!’ But still the auctioneer continued. ‘The son! The son! Who’ll take the son?’
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. ‘I’ll give $10 for the painting.’ Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. ‘We have $10, who will bid $20?’ ‘Give it to him for $10. Let’s see the masters,’ [someone shouted.] ‘$10 is the bid, won’t someone bid $20?’ The crowd was becoming angry. They didn’t want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. The auctioneer pounded the gavel. ‘Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!’
A man sitting on the second row shouted, ‘Now let’s get on with the collection!’ The auctioneer laid down his gavel. ‘I’m sorry, the auction is over.’ ‘What about the paintings?’ ‘I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!’ (Story : The Painting of The Son http://www.turnbacktogod.com/story-the-painting-of-the-son/#ixzz3icdLpK7H)
All things ‘Good’: Two points. First, ask yourself a question: in whose definition are all things ‘good?’ In ours or in God’s? By the way, in whose definition the Bible calls things good? Of course, in God’s. Come to think of it, God’s definition of good things is far better and safer than ours. His understanding is eternally superior to our understanding of what is good. What we may think good may not be the case in God’s sight. What God thinks good for us may appear terrible to us. E.g. Cross is the worst punishment in human eyes, yet the best gift in God’s eyes. One day Jesus told “His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matthew 16: 21-23, NASB). I would rather rely on God’s interpretation of what is good for me than my own, because He knows best, He is never changing, and He sees the entire picture. Our human understanding is limited, always changing, and not reliable at all times.
Next, ‘all things good’ never means a plethora of material possessions. E.g. Jesus—we cannot serve God and money at the same time [Matthew 6:24]. The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil [1 Timothy 6:10]. E.g. Lottery winners. At first, all of them thought wealth would make them happy after winning multi million dollars. Opposite are the facts. Many of the couples get divorced afterwards. All of them squander their winning dollars. Relationships go sour. Money made their lives miserable. E.g. 2. A mafia gangster made a million dollars in one day. In his apartment, he opened his briefcase full of cash. He flung all these hundred dollar bills in the air laughing. However, a few seconds later, as the money landed on the floor, he began to sob uncontrollably feeling so empty in his soul. Here’s excellent advice from Paul to those who want to be rich in the present world: fix your hope not on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). When it comes down to good things, we’d be far better off listening to God and His definition.
J. I. Packer explains on this phrase ‘all things good’: “The passion for possessions has to be cast out of us in order to let the ‘all things’ in. For this phrase has to do with knowing and enjoying God, and not with anything else. The meaning of ‘he will give us all things’ can be put thus; one day we shall see that nothing—literally nothing—which could have increased our eternal happiness has been denied us, and that nothing—literally nothing—that could have reduced that happiness has been left with us (p. 270, Knowing God).” God with us is the ultimate source of our happiness (Hebrews 13:6).
What are things ‘good’ in the Bible? The best gift of all is salvation in Christ (Hebrews 6:9). None of us fully understand now or appreciate how great this gift of salvation in Christ is. May God open our eyes to see how blessed we are and to see His glory (2 Corinthians 4:6). In fact, many non-believers mock at salvation. E.g. A friend of mine distributed gospel tracts at a fair: a couple laughed at him saying, “Sure, we will go to Hell! We will burn in there!” They walked away laughing. We will find out who’s going to laugh in the end. Folks, if you have nothing to be thankful for, begin with this one. Thank God every day for your salvation in Christ.
Now, I discovered in the Bible things that are good as the following three (not limited to, but including):
Many of us dither over giving our absolute loyalty to God. Why? Simply because of our unbelief in God. Let’s call a spade a spade.
Packer analyzes: “We are not persuaded of the adequacy of God to provide for all the needs…. Therefore, we feel obliged to break the first commandment just a little, by withdrawing a certain amount of our time and energy from serving God in order to serve mammon. This, at bottom, seems to be what is wrong with us. We are afraid to go all the way in accepting the authority of God, because of our secret uncertainty as to his adequacy to look after us if we do (Ibid.).”
E.g. A huge crowd was watching the famous tightrope walker, Blondin, cross Niagara Falls one day in 1860. He crossed it numerous times—a 1,000 foot trip 160 feet above the raging waters. He not only walked across it; he also pushed a wheelbarrow across it. One little boy just stared in amazement. So after completing a crossing the fellow looked at that little boy and he said, “Do you believe I could take a person across in the wheelbarrow without falling?” “Yes, sir, I really do.’ The fellow says, “Well then, get in, son” [Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations].
Do you fear that “God lacks strength or wisdom for fulfilling His declared purpose for you?” (Packer, p. 271). Then, ponder on the truths that “God created the worlds, rules them, and ordains all that takes place, even the fall of a sparrow” (Ibid.).
Do you fear that God may disappoint you? Then, please listen to Romans 8:28, “In everything God works for good with those who love Him.” Never think that “you will be the first exception, the first person to find God wavering and failing to keep his word” (ibid.).
Do you doubt God’s constancy? Remember God never changes: Malachi 3:6, Jesus is the same: Hebrews 13:8.
Give God all you have–your complete trust and absolute loyalty. Never doubt that He is your sovereign Provider. Hold back no longer. Dwell on God’s promises. He will not withhold anything good from you.
Today pastor Choi talks about God’s adequacy. More specifically, he focuses on the truth that God is our sovereign Protector (Romans 8: 31). He is bigger than any fears we may have, greater than any challenges we may face, and able to see us through any hardships we may encounter in our daily lives. He exhorts God’s people to daily claim God’s promise in Romans 8:31: If God is for us, who is against us?
Following is a summary of the sermon:
If God Is for Us
Romans 8:31-39 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
One of my favorite books is by J. I. Packer entitled “Knowing God.” Based on his book, for the next four Sundays, I am going to do a sermon series on the adequacy of God: God is sufficient for all human needs.
Here’s a brief overview. Today, part 1 of 4, we will focus on the truth that God is our sovereign Protector (v. 31). He is bigger than any fears we may have, greater than any challenges we may face, and able to see us through any hardships we may encounter in our daily lives. Next Sunday, we will discover that God is our sovereign Benefactor who withholds nothing good from us (v. 32). The following Sunday, we will see God as sovereign Champion and Judge who offers salvation based on grace. No one can condemn us when God justifies us (vv. 33-34). Finally, we will see God as our sovereign Keeper who keeps us eternally secure in Christ. Nothing will separate us from the love of God (v. 39).
I am convinced that at the end of my sermon series all of us will be blessed. We will grow in faith and be eternally grateful for our God who is sufficient for all our needs; physical, emotional, and spiritual.
If anyone is qualified to talk about life, I believe Apostle Paul is the one. He begins today’s text saying, “What then shall we say to these things?”(v. 31). What are ‘these things’ that he refers to? He is referring to all the things that he’s been through (moments of temptation and condemnation (Romans 8:2), moments of living in the flesh (Romans 8:9, 12), moments of fear (Romans 8:15), moments of suffering (Romans 8:18), moments of weakness and loss of directions (Romans 8:26), moments of disappointment and doubt (Romans 8:28). In fact, he himself lived through more hardships and life-threatening situations than anyone I know (even more so than Job).
Here’s the list of what he’s been through: afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger (2 Corinthians 6:4-5). Listen to him in his own words: 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). After living through such harsh environments for years, he says, “What can I tell you about life?”
Let’s think of the environment we are living in today. If you choose one word to characterize today’s world, what word would it be? Here is mine: fear. We are bombarded daily with message of fear, are we not? E.g. NY Times Headlines (8/5/2015): ISIS or Al Qaeda? American Officials Split Over Top Terror Threat.
Definition: Fear is “the bad feeling that you have when you are in danger, when something bad might happen, or when a particular thing frightens you” [Oxford Dictionary].
Fears are real, aren’t they? Having fears is also a common human experience. From ancient times, everyone with no exception has experienced fears and all of us currently have at least one or two. For instance, the fear of death, the fear of losing health, the fear of losing our job, the fear of losing loved ones, the fear of the dark, spiders, snakes, the fear of flying, the fear of being a failure, the fear of loneliness, the fear of depression, the fear of heights, the fear of the terrorist attacks, the fear of bullies, the fear of rejection, the list goes on.
All of us have fears. The real question is how can we handle them? How do we counter the forces of fear and circumstances that are massed against us? In today’s text, Paul points out an eternal truth that we can apply to our daily lives. With the greatest conviction, he declares that God is the solution to all of our problems including fears. Numerous times in the Bible, God says to His children, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” Therefore, when we are afraid, we must declare as Paul did, “God is with me. I am not afraid. If God is for me, who is against me?”
My testimony: twenty some years ago, I was gripped with the fear of the future for my daughter. God promised that He will be there for my daughter and take care of her, even long after her parents are gone. Ever since He has kept His promise and He will do so until the Day of the Lord.
Let me read verse 31 one more time to you: If God is for us, who is against us?
What does it mean—God is for us?
It means God is committed to be our Protector. It means that God is on our side. It also means that no humans or fears can mess us up because God is with us. When we are afraid, we can turn to and cry unto Him. When our enemies see God with us, they will flee away from us; our fears will melt away within us. God is the perfect answer to human fears. He is the best solution that works always and forever! As long as God is our sovereign Protector, no fear can crush us. Don’t believe in a lie that no one can protect you from fears. God can and He will as long as you trust Him in faith.
Remember this: not everyone in the world can claim this promise that God is for them. You have to be in relationship with God to be able to say, “God is for me.” Why? Because this promise of protection is only (let me repeat only) meant for God’s elect (v. 33), not for all. God is only committed to those who worship and serve Him as the Lord. God’s protection comes through His commitment to the covenant between Him and His people made. The words ‘covenant’ and ‘covenantal relationship’ deserve our attention here. In fact, the Bible is all about covenant relationship between God and His children.
A little bit of historical information on the suzerainty covenant clause here would help us understand our “covenantal” relationship with God: A typical ancient suzerainty document begins with identifying the two parties in the covenant. One is the suzerain and the other is the vassal state. One is the more powerful state and the benefactor and the other is the weaker state and the beneficiary. It declares that “the suzerain is for the vassal state…..”
In Genesis 17: 1, 7-9, we see the same type of covenant declared by God to Abraham. “I am God Almighty,…. I will establish my covenant ….between me and you…to be your God and the God of your descendants after you….I will be their God…You must keep my covenant.”
Who is ‘God’ here?
He is God the Almighty. He is God the Creator who created the universe and everything in it. He is God the Sustainer. All-powerful God. All-knowing God. All-present God. He is God who cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). He remains faithful even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13). He cannot lie and keeps His promises for His children (Titus 1:2). He is God who predestined us to be His children and to inherit the Kingdom of God for eternity (Ephesians 1:5). He is God who loves the world so that He sent His own Son to the cross on our behalf (John 3:16). He is God who began a good work in us, and will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
Who is ‘us’ here?
We are God’s covenant people in Christ. We are His children redeemed by the blood of Christ. We are heirs of His kingdom: Gentiles or Jews, women or men, all who have faith in Jesus.
You see, we become children of God through our repentance of sins and believing in Jesus as our Savior and Lord. That is how we become the covenant people of God. Once established, the covenant between God and us abides for eternity, for God keeps it in being (p. 261, Knowing God, J.I. Packer). In this covenant, God declares that He would uphold and protect us when people and circumstances are threatening to us. In this covenant, God promises that He would provide for us as long as our earthly pilgrimage lasts. To this covenant, God commits Himself that He would not leave us until we become more like Him in our character. In this same covenant, in turn, we declare our faithfulness and loyalty to God in Heaven. We promise that we would obey Him and keep His commandments.
What it means to be able to say “God is for me”?
I believe Paul got the idea of “God is for us” from Psalmist who says, “God is for me.” Listen. Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; This I know, that God is for me (Psalm 56:9).
To say that God is for me means:
Remember the story of David and Goliath? David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45) .
When the Goliath of fears, worries, and doubts assails you, don’t run away. Instead, walk straight toward him and counter with God’s truth: if God is for me, who is against me? Claim this powerful promise of God every day. Nothing can crush you, because for you is God the Sovereign Protector. Amen.
Today Pastor Choi talks about seeking justice. Religion without a humble walk with God is nothing. Worship rituals without repentant hearts are futile. Prayers without justice go unanswered. At the end of the sermon, he exhorts the congregation to start living out justice every day including prayers of justice for our nation.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Isaiah 1:10-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
God Has Had Enough
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the instruction of our God,
You people of Gomorrah.
11 “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle;
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
12 “When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
13 “Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
14 “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 “So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.
“Let Us Reason”
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.
19 “If you consent and obey,
You will eat the best of the land;
20 “But if you refuse and rebel,
You will be devoured by the sword.”
Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
C: You love justice. You bless those who conduct their affairs with justice.
L: You discipline us only with justice and mercy.
C: You will judge the world with justice.
A: Many seek the favor of a ruler, but it is from You, O Lord, that we get justice.
L: Let justice be a light to all nations.
C: Let justice roll like a river in America.
L: Endow our leaders with justice, O God.
C: Help them not to pervert justice by showing partiality or receiving bribes.
A: Help them not to be partial to the guilty or deprive the innocent of justice.
L: Help our Congress never to write oppressive laws.
C: Let our judges maintain justice in the courts.
L: Make our judges aware that they are watched by a higher Judge of all.
C: Grant our President discernment in administering justice. Let his mouth not betray justice.
L: You speak to us, “Make sure justice is done.”
C: We will “Help the down-and-out; Stand up for the homeless;
Go to bat for the defenseless” (The Message Bible).
A: Help us not to deny justice to the poor. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
Today Pastor Choi talks about four keys to good health: T.O.P.C. Trust in the Lord, Obey God’s commands, Pray, and Clean Thinking. When we follow these keys faithfully, we will enjoy good health in our body and soul.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Keys to Good Health
3 John 2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
2 Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.
Most people I know want to have a long life with good health. So do I. I am sure you do, too. Did you know that God also wants us to enjoy life with good health? Of course, He does because He is our loving Heavenly Father. In fact, He wants us to prosper in all areas of life; in all the things we do, and be in good health as our soul is right with Him (3 John 1:2).
When it comes down to our physical health, God is interested in how we maintain good health and how we use our body. Here are some examples found in the Scriptures: Honor God with our body (1 Corinthians 6:20). Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:2). Learn to control your own body (1 Thessalonians 4:4). Never use your body for sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:13). Do not hate your own body (Ephesians 5:29). Do not put your body through harsh treatments (Colossians 2:23). Stop presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but rather present them as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:13). If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are (1 Corinthians 3:17). Based on these verses, I would say that maintaining a good healthy body and using it for His glory and honor is God’s will for us.
Speaking of good health and how to maintain it, you don’t need my personal advice. In fact, there are plenty of good tips out there such as proper diet, right exercise, good night’s rest, and so forth. And, it is a good thing that we hear about them almost daily.
However, God’s people often are ignorant of what the Bible says about good health that we neglect God’s wisdom thereon. We are smart in worldly wisdom, but poor in God’s wisdom for our health. The difference between God’s wisdom and that of the world is this: the one in the world may sound good, but it has no control over our fleshly indulgence (Colossians 2:23): These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
This morning, I am going to present to you four keys to good health that are found in God’s Word. Of course, there are more than four tips for health in the Bible, but I am going to limit them to four for the sake of time. I believe these four will top any secular health tips and when we follow faithfully we will be in good health.
4 Keys to Good Health (T.O.P.C.): Trust—Obey—Pray—Clean Thinking
Trust in the LORD
The Bible declares that trust in the LORD surely brings health to our body. Listen.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones (Proverbs 3:5, 3:8)
How does ‘trust in the Lord’ ‘bring health to our body’? This is how it works: When we trust in the Lord, we believe in His good will (nothing but the best) for us. When we trust in His good will, He will protect us from the evil one (John 17:15) and bless us with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). When we trust in the Lord, we don’t have to trust in ourselves or our own ability. In turn, God fills us with a true security that we are His own and we belong to Him. He also fills our hearts with an assurance that He loves us and provides whatever we need (food, clothing, shelter). That keeps us going strong every day without worries. E.g. I still remember 30 years ago on the plane to America, both my wife and I declared that our trust is in the Lord, not in money. He has proven His faithfulness to us since. We never lacked anything in material possessions. In fact, this option of trusting in the Lord is far better than having a billion dollars in my bank accounts and constantly worrying about tomorrow. I recommend you to do the same: declare every morning that you trust in the Lord in all matters, particularly in your own health, and begin to enjoy good health.
Obey God’s Commands
God’s Word promises that when we obey God and His commands, we will be blessed in all areas of life. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 28:2). God also warns us that if we choose to disobey Him, curses will come upon us: So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the Lord your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you (Deuteronomy 28:45).
When we obey God and His commands, He declares that we are His own. Our relationship with God comes with lots of benefits, both spiritual and physical, that includes good health. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine (Exodus 19:5). He won’t withhold any blessings from those who obey Him. If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land (Isaiah 1:19). He will be your protection as well. But if you truly…do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries (Exodus 23:22).
Although there are many commands that we ought to pay attention to, I picked three.
It is a no brainer that our mental health is directly related to and affects our body health. In fact, the Scripture has been telling us about this downward connection for thousands of years. Doctors say that stress and anxiety frequently cause health problems such as high blood pressure, depression, and even back pain. E.g. Dr. Pizzi (neuro-surgeon): the last place for blood supply is spine. Unresolved prolonged stress can cause back-pain.
There are more things, God’s Word points out, that also negatively affect our health such as envy, despair, shame, guilt, and rejection. Listen.
Lay Speaker Louise Jones delivered her sermon on Sunday, July 19, on the topic of faith based on Ephesians 6 16 “Above all taking the shield of Faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”
Today Pastor Choi talks about ways to know Jesus. It is God’s will for God’s children to know Jesus. The knowledge of Jesus is a matter of eternal life and death. He then explains three major ways to know Jesus: 1. We know Jesus through the Holy Spirit. 2. We know Jesus through the Scripture. 3. We know Jesus through prayer. He exhorts the congregation to press on to know Jesus throughout this year following those three ways.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Ways to Know Jesus
John 10:11-15 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.12 He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
God knows us quite well—everything about you and me. So does Jesus. So does the Holy Spirit. In fact, the all-knowing God knows us to the deepest secrets of our hearts and minds. We rarely doubt that. How about us knowing God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in turn? How much do we know Jesus? Many of us would say, “Well, I am not sure that I know Him well.” How critical is it, anyway, for us to know Jesus? It is a matter of eternal life and death. That’s how critical it is to know Him.
In John 8:19, Jesus says to the Pharisees (religious leaders then), “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” Knowing Jesus is the prerequisite for knowing God. We know God through Jesus. If we know Jesus, we would know God the Father also. If we don’t know Jesus, we don’t know God, either. In Jeremiah 4:22, God calls Israel His people fools because they don’t know God. If we don’t know God, we are fools, too! We are pathetic without the knowledge of God! We perish if we don’t have the knowledge of God (Hosea 4:6). We must know God. We must know Jesus. We must know the Holy Spirit (John 14:17).
That’s why I designated this year to be the Year of Knowing Jesus (T.Y.O.K.J.). When we were not a believer in Christ, we were outside salvation. Back then, God would overlook our ignorance and indifference to the knowledge of Jesus. Now, we are in Jesus. We have salvation through Him. We are called to follow Jesus. We are called to know Him. Therefore, we have no excuses now not to know Him. In fact, it is God’s will for us to know Jesus and His will. God wants and expects us to know Jesus so that we may keep His commandments. Moreover, the knowledge of Jesus would keep us from being deceived with the wrong image of Jesus. E.g. False image of Jesus such as the political liberator in South America, Jesus as spiritual guru, and Jesus as Father Christmas.
If you agree with me that we must know Jesus for our salvation, the next question would be: how can we know Jesus? This morning, I am going to present three ways through which we can know Jesus. By faithfully following these three ways, we will know Jesus and we will avoid deceptions in our journey to Heaven.
First, we know Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Some folks attempt to know Jesus through the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 1:21) such as history and literature, yet no matter how hard they try in human wisdom and knowledge, they will never find the true Jesus. They may pick up the partial image of Christ, but never gain the whole true image of Jesus. E.g. In my college days, I took a course “Comparative Religion.” The instructor had us study several religions of the world: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, and even Shamanism to name a few. Then, he asked the students to choose the truth among them. At best, I was distracted from the truth. At worst, I failed to discover the true image of Jesus that way. Instead of helping me, it threw me into further confusion. There’s only one way, God declares, for us to find the true image of Jesus. That is ‘a spirit of wisdom and revelation’ (Ephesians 1:17—that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him). That spirit is the Holy Spirit. He is the spirit of truth. And, Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit’s job is to reveal Jesus the truth to us and to glorify Him (John 16:14). His responsibility is to teach God’s children everything about Jesus (John 14:26). If you want to learn mathematics, you need a math teacher. Likewise, if we want to know Jesus, we need the Holy Spirit the Teacher.
Now, many of us would say, “Well, I am not really familiar with the Holy Spirit. Where do I start?” Here’s what you do. First, recognize that the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit who dwells in you (John 14:17). Then, you acknowledge His role as teacher by saying, “Holy Spirit, You are my teacher. I need You. Please reveal to me the true Jesus in the ways that I would understand.” Then, you begin to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in you. Sometimes, we get confused with the other voices in us that seem to be the voice of the Holy Spirit. E.g. New Age promotes the small voice in you is the Holy Spirit (when it is anything but the Holy Spirit). Remember: God commands us not to believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1). Our responsibility is to test every voice in us and accept only the true voice of the Holy Spirit and reject all others. Now, at first, you may not be able to distinguish the Holy Spirit from other voices, but as you practice day in day out, you will become familiar with the ways He leads you. The more you practice, the better you get. Eventually, you will be able to discern the true ways the Holy Spirit guides you.
How do you tell the Holy Spirit from the other voices in you? The bottom-line is this: the Holy Spirit never contradicts Jesus or the Scripture (John 16:14–He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.) In other words, you test the Holy Spirit’s voice against Jesus and the Scripture. They agree? Then, it is the Holy Spirit. If not, it is not. E.g.1. On my way home from visiting a shut-in, one day, the Holy Spirit spoke to me that I have seen Jesus that afternoon reminding me of the Scripture that confirms the voice: “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:39-40). E.g. 2. One lady thought that the Holy Spirit spoke to her to become her pastor’s wife (when the pastor was already married). So, one night, while pastor’s wife was away and pastor was out, somehow she got into the pastor’s house and jumped in pastor’s bed waiting for him. Well, her conviction wasn’t from the Holy Spirit, because it contradicts God’s commandment not to commit adultery (Exodus 20:14).
The second way to know Jesus is the Bible. Some believers are privileged to know Jesus through special revelations such as dreams, visions, and even visitations from angels. E.g. Jesus personally appeared to Saul on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:5). However, most of us (including myself) don’t have such experiences. Although those are very special ways to know Jesus, we don’t have to envy them, because they are not the primary means to get to know Jesus His Son. What is the primary means, then? The Scripture—the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit. God uses the Bible to teach us of Jesus. Let me share with you one thing God taught me this year about Jesus through the Scripture: Jesus’ love language is Action (Matthew 7) and to know Jesus means to love Him, and to love Him means to keep His commandments (John 14:21). These new understanding of Jesus came through my daily reading of God’s Word. The Bible is the Book about Jesus, so without getting into God’s Word, we will never be able to fully understand who Jesus is (like a student ignoring the major textbook). We will be very susceptible to deceptions, too. That is why it is crucial for us to get into God’s Word daily.
Two years ago, I challenged the congregation to read the entire Bible in a year. For those who did, I promised I would record their names in my notebook called “The Book Club”—the Book meaning God’s Word. So far, five people completed this challenge. I am very proud of them. I am still waiting for seven more people so that when I have twelve I would like to celebrate together their great achievement of reading through God’s Word in a year. E.g. A man died and went to Heaven (later came back to life—near death experience). When he asked Jesus in Heaven for lots of questions he had, Jesus said to him, “Have you read My Book?” Folks, we have no excuses not to get into God’s Word (“It is too difficult to understand, I have no time to read”—those wouldn’t cut it). God may be merciful to those who don’t have bibles with them such as Christians in North Korea, but here in America He will hold us accountable with His Word.
Lastly, we learn of Jesus through prayers. Prayer is an ancient way of God’s revealing Himself to us. Jesus still uses it. God’s people still need it. If we don’t pray, we deprive Jesus of revealing Himself to us. We also deprive ourselves of knowing Jesus personally. Many believers get to know Jesus through prayer. Show me a prayer warrior, and I will show you the one who knows Jesus. My own experience this year: in my prayers Jesus reminded me to love Him not because of the blessings He gives me but for the sake of relationship. He also commanded me to love Him more than my wife. All these understandings came through prayer.
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father” (John 10: 14-15).
My own know Me (v. 14): the Greek sentence for My own know Me is passive—so, the literal translation is: I am known by them. The initiative and responsibility to know Him lies with us. We have homework to do. That part, Jesus won’t do it for us.
Prophet Hosea exhorts us, “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). We still have the second half of the year to know Jesus. Let us know Him by asking God’s Spirit to reveal and teach of Jesus every day. Let us press on to know Him by getting into God’s Word every day. Let us follow our Good Shepherd in prayer every day. Amen.
Today Pastor Choi talks about the blessing of being in the presence of God: to see God face-to-face and to have fellowship with God. He further explains things that would break our fellowship with God: evil ways (sin) before the LORD. Later he introduces things that would restore us back to the same fellowship with God: repentance and humility. He concludes his sermon with 3-3-3 Challenge: 3 minutes a day-3 things-3 weeks in prayer to practice God’s presence daily.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
In the Presence of God
Psalm 41:12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
12 As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,
And You set me in Your presence forever.
Think of one wish for God to grant you (for you personally): what would it be? Don’t ask for a small stuff. Think big. Also, be careful not to choose one that matters only in this life. Choose one thing that will trump all other earthly wishes. Choose one wish that will last forever and benefit you eternally. What would be that wish of yours?
Here’s my wish: I want to be in the presence of God forever. As King David prayed, I would ask the Lord, “Please set me in Your presence forever” (Psalm 41:12).
Come to think of it, all the things we do as a believer in Christ boil down to one aim we have: to be in the presence of God for eternity. We do the following:
All that we may be in the presence of God.
Before I dig deeper, let me explain what I mean by “being in the presence of God.” The English phrase “in the presence of God” is a direct translation of Hebrew expression “before the face of God.” So, may I say, to be in the presence of God means to stand before God or to see God face-to-face?
In the Bible, to be in God’s presence simply means this: to be in fellowship with God. And, to be in fellowship with God means to be a friend of God. By the way, what do we do with our friends? We get together / dine together / talk and listen to each other / have fun together / cry together / laugh together / suffer together….So with our God. Being in fellowship with God, we do all these things above together with God. There are more benefits: we find rest, joy, peace, love, righteousness, wisdom, strength, and courage. All in the fellowship with God.
Folks, we are truly blessed to have fellowship with God because of what Jesus has done on the cross. Before we came to know Jesus, the Bible says, we all were enemies of God and outsiders of the fellowship with God. However, we became reconciled with God and became His friends when we confessed our sins and received forgiveness through Christ’s atonement. From then on, we have fellowship with God. We are in His presence. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).
However, we must beware of dangers out there lurking on us to destroy our fellowship with God. I would call those things “Fellowship Breakers.” These fellowship breakers at first don’t look too harmful to our relationship with God. However, they will chip off our fellowship with God little by little. We will be drifted away from God day by day without even realizing. When left unchecked and not corrected periodically, they will eventually bring forth our removal from God’s presence. Look what happened to the people of Israel in 2 Kings 17:7-20: because of their evil ways before the LORD, they lost their fellowship with Him, and were removed from God’s presence. What caused them to get to that point? The evil things that they sold themselves to for centuries. The desire to obey God wasn’t there in their hearts (Philippians 2:13).
Here are some things that they did and grieved God: stubborn heart / rebellion against God / unbelief / idolatry / arrogance / rejection of God’s commands / divination / enchantments (magic). Basically, whatever grieves the Lord and whatever provokes God to anger (it is called sin) are detrimental to our fellowship with the Lord. Left unchecked and un-repented for a long time, they can cost us the presence of the Lord in our lives both in this life and in the life to come.
Think about the Israelites who lost their privilege of being in the presence of God. Don’t think that they didn’t have second or third chance to repent or the LORD has not been patient with them. In fact, the LORD has been long suffering with them since Exodus. Here’s the timeline for you to consider: Covenant made with Abraham (c. 2091 B.C.), Exodus (c. 1446 B.C.), Entering the Promised Land (c. 1406 B.C.), Kingdom of Israel (c. 1043 B.C.), Kingdom divides into two (931 B.C.), Kingdom of Israel falls (723 B.C.), Kingdom of Judah falls (586 B.C.). Between the first covenant with Abraham and the time Israel was removed from God’s presence, 1,500 years were there. During this time, God has been patient with His people. In fact, He repeatedly sent His prophets to bring them back to Him to no avail. So, in the end, the Lord was very angry with Israel and Israel was removed from His presence (2 Kings 17:18).
Here’s a lesson for us: some of us may think that our salvation in Jesus is secured no matter what we do even when we don’t repent our willful sin against God. Some of us may be falsely assured that once salvation is given, we never lose it even when we walk in darkness or remain in sin un-repented. For instance, let’s say I have not forgiven someone in my life for 30 years. I know I am to obey the Lord’s command by forgiving, yet I didn’t. That’s a willful sin (knowing what is right and not doing it). Let’s further say that the Holy Spirit convicted me repeatedly that I was disobeying the Lord by refusing to forgive someone in my life. If my willful sin is bad enough, the refusal to repent is far dangerous because it may cost me eternal life—the life in God’s presence for eternity.
Consider this: God invites us to be in His presence through Jesus. Jesus / angels of the Lord / apostles / saints are all in the presence of God and they are waiting for us to join them. It would be a grave mistake with eternal consequences if we neglect this great privilege by our unwillingness to repent. If we continue on stubborn heart and arrogance, we may end up joining the other side—Hell where the Devil and all his followers, both spirits and humans, are going to be. They have one thing in common: disobedience to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, they are already separated from God’s presence. Their fate is sealed and revealed in the Bible as follows: they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1:9). May we never be separated from the presence of the Lord.
I don’t want to end my sermon on a down-tone. If there are “Fellowship Breakers” that derail us off our Heaven-bound journey, there are things that would restore us back to the fellowship with God, even after the fellowship is broken. I would call them “Fellowship Antidotes.” We have to use them as soon as we find ourselves infected with the symptoms of “Fellowship Breakers” in our lives. There are two: repentance and humility. E.g. King David (who committed adultery, murder, and cover up) repented his grave sin in humility and was pardoned by God. His fellowship with God was broken by his sins yet restored through his humble penitence (Psalm 51:10-12): “10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (KJV).
One last thing: Most of us think that being in God’s presence is a remote future possibility. However, you don’t have to die to be in the presence of God. In fact, you can experience the presence of God here and now. Every day. Every moment. E.g. Brother Lawrence in the 17th Century: “The Practice of the Presence of God.” He practiced God’s presence daily through faith, love, prayer, and meditation of God’s Word.
Let me remind you once again of the meaning of being “in the presence of God.” It means to appear before God seeing Him face-to-face. It means to enter into God’s presence and look at His face without fear. It means having an audience with God one-on-one. You can do this while you are still living on earth. One way to do it is prayer (cf. Genesis 32:31—Jacob said that he saw God face-to-face).
I am about to offer a challenge for you this morning: 3-3-3. Three minutes a day – three weeks – three things. Starting today, for the next three weeks, spend at least three minutes each day in God’s presence in prayer. Let me suggest three things you do in your prayer: 1. Remember your covenant with God. God is your God and you’re His child. 2. Repent of any sin that has been detrimental to your fellowship with God. Do not leave any sin un-repented. 3. Renew your covenant with God by recommitting yourself to God. Offer your body as a living sacrifice and your members as instrument of righteousness to God (Romans 12:2).
Those who would like to accept this challenge, please arise to your feet. I invite you to say a prayer after me: “Lord, I am eternally grateful / for salvation through Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord. I am also grateful / for the fellowship with You in Jesus. You are my Father / and I am Your child. I am Your friend. If I have been disobedient to you willfully, please forgive my stubbornness and arrogance. I repent of all my sins. I offer myself as a living sacrifice and instruments of righteousness. Use me for your glory and honor. Thanks for Jesus. Thanks for the forgiveness. Thanks for restored fellowship with you. Thanks for keeping me in Your presence. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Tim Gallagher shares with the Manahawkin congregation how God has led him through ups and downs in life with His grace, through prayers, and with the people of God.
Today Pastor Choi talks about God’s commandment on fathers: honor them (Exodus 20:12). Pointing out the reality in America, he exhorts the congregation to reconcile with their earthly fathers not by feelings but by will. He gives three pieces of advice to those who want to reconcile with their estranged fathers: obey God no matter what. Forgive. Be proactive.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Exodus 20:12 New American Standard Bible
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
Happy Father’s Day! Let me begin with a story of my own father. Had he been alive today, he would have been 107 years old. He passed away at 59 (I was 11 years old). He was a kind man and never violent yet dysfunctional due to his alcoholism. He was often sick and couldn’t hold a steady job and left a heavy burden on my mother’s shoulders to raise six kids. I wish he had lived a little longer, but it didn’t happen. I always had the longing in my heart for my father as I grew up into my adulthood.
Reality: What about your father? Is he a wonderful father? Are you proud of him? Then, be thankful and honor him.
Is he not so good, in fact, a terrible father? Forgive and still honor him.
Not every one of us is proud of our fathers: in fact, there are many children wish that their fathers would’ve been different. E.g. One year a greeting card company offered free Mother’s Day cards to prison inmates. It was a huge success! So, for Father’s Day, the company did the same: free cards for fathers. However, this time, unlike the Mother’s Day offer, it was received very poorly among the inmates. Hmmm… it tells us something, doesn’t it? Did you also know that Father’s Day is the busiest day of the year for collect calls (because so many fathers are in jail)? Sadly, many fathers in America have a poor track record when it comes down to bringing up their children right (cf. Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”).
Two kinds of father we see in the Bible: two different Hebrew words are used for father (when no such biblical distinctions are made for mothers):
1) Ab: it occurs in most references for fathers; five out of six times (also used in all occasions for father: e.g.1. father of all who play the harp and flute (Genesis 4:21). e.g. 2. Paul was the father to all Corinthian believers (1 Corinthians 4:15).
2) Yalad: (biological fathers) occurs in one out of six times in the Old Testament references. This one reminds me of the fathers who are good at creating babies but very poor in relationships with their children.
My heart goes out to those young and grown-up children who have difficult relationships with their earthly fathers. E.g. I remember one female student in seminary who refused to call God in Heaven ‘Father.’ Why? Because her difficult and abusive relationship with her earthly father made it impossible to call God ‘Father.’ Thank God that we have only one perfect Father in Heaven. Jesus points out that we all have one Father who is in Heaven (Matthew 23:9) (we’d best stop relating the imperfect image of earthly father to that of heavenly Father).
With such reality (of two kinds of fathers) in mind, let’s pay attention to the fifth commandment once again: 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
Why Should We Honor Fathers?
I asked myself a question: Why should we honor fathers?
Simply because God commands us to do so (like the other nine commandments in the Ten Commandments.) It is God’s will for us to honor our parents. It’s a commandment of God not an option or suggestion. If we don’t honor our fathers, we are disobeying God.
This commandment is not conditional, either.
In other words, God wants us to honor our fathers
Not because of what they have done for us.
Not because of societal pressure or culture.
Not because we may feel like doing it.
But because we owe them our lives. Like they owed theirs to their parents. It goes all the way up to God—the Giver of Life. One reason we ought to honor our fathers is for the life in us. Proverbs 23:22 says: “Listen to your father, who gave you life.” By honoring our fathers, we ultimately show our respect to God the Giver of Life.
By the way, God promises a reward to those who honor their fathers: a blessed long-life on earth.
What Does It Mean to Honor?
Honor: Note here that it is different from “obey.” To honor means: to show respect [Nahash, 2 Samuel 10:3]. To Reward [Balaam, Numbers 22:17, 37]. To think more important [sons of Eli. 1 Samuel 2:29]. To make them proud of you. Not to ‘embarrass’ [Saul to Samuel, 1 Samuel 15:30]. Not to ‘despise’ [Jerusalem, Lamentations 1:8, Despise vile men, Psalms 15:4, 1 Samuel 2:30]. To Care for, show affection, glorify, prize and cherish.
How Do We Honor the Unworthy Fathers?
My honest thought: It would’ve been far easier if the commandment said, “Honor your father and mother only if they deserve it.” Or, “Honor them only when they are good to you.”
But, that’s not how the commandment is written. Rather, it says: “Honor your father.” Period. Plain and simple. The way I see it is to honor all types of fathers, both good or bad.
So, the real question is: how can we honor our fathers who deserve no respect or honor from us? Impossible with our own might, but it is doable in the Lord. Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Here are three things to start with to honor your father.
First, be resolved to obey God no matter what. Be resolved that you are not going to let your hurts and feelings stand in the way to obey God’s commandment. Resolution determines attitude; attitude determines approach; approach determines outcome (Derek Prince).
Next, forgive him. Remember the Lord’s prayer: forgive our trespasses as we forgive those [our fathers] who trespass against us. Forgiveness is not done by feelings but by your will.
Thirdly, be proactive, not reactive. Honor your undeserving father not because of but inspite of. This commandment is one of the two commandments in positive formulation in the Ten Commandments [i.e., it is not “You shall NOT…” but “Do…” When we are proactive, it opens a door for us to honor them in many ways.
Folks, for closing, I am going to say a prayer especially for those who have very difficult relationships with their earthly fathers. Please close your eyes and join me in prayer. If you need to forgive your father, don’t wait for another day to do so. Now is the time.
If you want to forgive your father, say after me in silence: Father in Heaven, it is your will to honor my father. I am determined to obey you no matter what. Today I forgive my own father not by feelings but by will. By myself I cannot do, but I can with your help. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Today Pastor Choi explains the meaning of confirmation: it is a life-long faith journey where God is fully committed to strengthen the believer’s faith and practice until s/he is transformed into Christ’s image (Ephesians 5:1). He exhorts God’s children to be Christ’s representatives to the world in this life and stand blameless in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Confirmation Sunday Message
2 Corinthians 2:14-17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
Congratulations! This is a great day for the confirmands who completed a three-month long class. I am very proud of you all. Thanks to the parents for their encouragement and support. Thanks to the congregation for your prayers. Today is also great day for our church because we received four new members to God’s family! Special thanks to c0-teachers , Randy and Vanessa Estelow: we had such a great fun teaching about God and about God’s Church. Also, special thanks to Rosemary Molinaro who provided each confirmand with a very special stole to wear this morning.
Let me begin my message with a question: What is confirmation to you? How would you explain to your friend if she asks you ‘what confirmation is all about’? A typical answer would be something like this: you complete a three-month (or a year) long class and you get confirmed on a Sunday (typically in June) and you become a full member of the Church of God. Let me tell you. Confirmation is much more than that.
I looked up the word ‘to confirm’ in the dictionary. This is what I have found: the word “confirm” is originated from a Latin word “confirmare” which has two parts: con—(together) and firmare—(to strengthen). Therefore, ‘to confirm’ means ‘to strengthen together.’ So, in the context of Church, ‘to confirm’ means ‘to strengthen together someone’s (typically youth) faith and practice.’
At the first confirmation class, I explained to the youth that confirmation is a life-long journey, not a three-month long class. By taking the class, I said, they are taking their first step in their faith journey to Heaven. I encourage the confirmands to continue their participation in the life of the Church after they are confirmed.
Sadly, however, that’s not the reality in America. A vast majority of confirmands, as soon as they are confirmed, drop out of the Church (statistics show that they don’t come back to the Church until they are married and have their own kids). My experience of 25 years of ministry testifies to that reality. It shouldn’t be. Let us remind ourselves that Confirmation Sunday is not the end, but the beginning of faith journey.
Remember the ‘together’ part? In this faith journey, no one travels alone. We go together. In fact, God assigns to us four travel partners: family, friends, Church, and God Himself. Families sometimes can discourage us. Friends at other times can abandon us. Even the Church of God can disappoint us as well. However, we do have one partner, eternal and divine, who never abandons or forsakes us. He is God. His name is Immanuel. He is with us forever. He is our faithful partner in our journey to Heaven. In fact, the Scripture says that God is fully committed to this journey of confirmation and sanctification to the end (through and through). He will carry out His work in us until we are transformed into Christ’s image (Ephesians 5:1). Listen to the promise of God: who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:8). We can trust in Him. We can rely on His commitment to make us whole and blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ—this phrase deserves our attention.
You see, our final destination in our journey is Heaven. Heaven is not a physical place like the USA or Australia. Heaven is a place where God is. We are going to this place where God is and we will be with Him in His presence for eternity.
To be with God, we must know who God is and His attributes. God is holy and righteous. Nothing impure/unclean is permitted in His presence. That means, to be with Him and in the presence of God who is holy, we too need to be holy like He is. That’s why God expects us to be perfect, pure, and blameless (1 Corinthians 1:8) not just in human standards but in His own. Of course, all of us would fail that holiness test before God due to our sin and iniquities. That’s precisely why God sent His Son Jesus Christ the sinless so that He would take care of our sin and its consequences (the Bible calls it ‘the wages of sin’). So, Jesus took our sins to the cross and paid the wages of our sins once and for all at the cross through His own death. Now, we are pardoned of our sins and we are free from the condemnation of our sins that culminates in eternal judgment in Hell. Because of Christ’s merit, not our own, and because of our faith in Him, we can stand in front of God with Christ’s righteousness that was imputed on us (like we are wearing Christ’s righteousness on us).
During our faith journey to Heaven, in this life God calls us to be His representatives to the world. The Scripture puts in the following four ways: we are the salt, the light, the letter, and the aroma.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth.” Imagine a food that is without salt. A right amount of salt brings out the best taste of the food. So do you. Be the salt where you belong (family, school, work, community and church) and bring glory to God.
Jesus also says in Matthew 5:14 that weare the light of the world. Imagine the world without God’s children—how dark it would be! E.g. A satellite picture of the earth at night with the background of pitch darkness studded with countless points of light. Brighten the corner of your place with the light of God.
Thirdly, each one of us is a letter of Christ to the world. People read us as if they read a letter. Listen to Paul: (to the Corinthian believers) he wrote “…you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3). When the people in the world read our lives, what would they think of us, of the Church, and of God? Would they think of Christ the author and give glory to God or would they be disappointed and stay away from the Church altogether? E.g. My bumper sticker: IXΘUS (Jesus Christ Son of God Savior) makes me a little more conscious of my driving behavior.
Lastly, the Bible says that we are a fragrance of Christ to God (2 Corinthians 2:14). I am sure we are a fragrance of Christ to the world as well. Let’s be an aroma of Christ, not a stench, to whomever we meet and interact.
One more thing before I am done. For our Heaven-bound journey God never leaves us unprepared. Rather, He fully equips us with essential tools (for lack of better terms)—things that we must have for the journey. There are two: God’s own Word and God’s own Spirit. The Bible and the Holy Spirit. First, the Bible. This morning we gave the confirmands God’s Word so that they may get into God’s Word daily. We also gave them a 365 day Bible reading plan. I pray that they diligently get into God’s living Word. I believe God’s Word is more important than ever before. Why? Because we are living in a perilous time where everything is relative and permissible. When everything is permissible, nothing is sacred including God’s Word. For instance, nowadays, people don’t want to offend each other, so they remove anything that is offensive to someone. E.g. An atheist sues the church to remove the sign board that posts God-references. He claims that he is offended each day as he drives by the church sign with God-references in it. The court sides with him! Why is the Bible more important than ever before? Because it is filled with absolutes and with God’s Word (not just human’s words). I give Psalm 119:9, 11 to all: How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against You.
For our Heaven-bound journey, God also provides us with His Holy Spirit as our constant companion. Who is the Holy Spirit? God’s own Spirit who dwells in our hearts (2 Corinthians 1:22). What is He doing in us and in our lives? He is the Helper and the Counselor. He comforts us in times of sorrow. In times of confusion, He guides us into the right directions. He even intercedes for us even when we don’t know what to pray for ourselves (Romans 8:26).
So, folks, and especially confirmands, we are taking our first step in our Heaven-bound journey. Our final destination is Heaven. Our family, friends, Church, and God are journeying with us. We do have the right tools—the Bible (map to Heaven) and the Holy Spirit (our guide)—that will guide us into the right paths and help us to stay on the course. May God help all of us to complete this journey and stand blameless in His presence on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we do, God will say to us, “Welcome Home!” That day would be the most glorious day of all. Amen. Let us pray.