Manahawkin United Methodist Church

Today Pastor Choi talks about the most powerful name of all: Jesus.  Encouraging the congregation to ponder the name Jesus, he answers carefully three questions on the name of Jesus:

Q1: Do I know the name ‘Jesus’?

Q2: Do I know the meaning of the name ‘Jesus’?

Q3: Do I claim the name and do everything in the name of ‘Jesus’?

In the end he exhorts the congregation to do everything in the name of Jesus and start experiencing Jesus in a new way.

   The Name Jesus

 

Following is a summary of his sermon:

The Name Jesus                                                                                                    Matthew 1:18-25

  • 18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yetdid not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).  24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

    Introduction

  • Do the Bible trivia insert before the sermon.
  • Let me begin with a story of a woman in the 19th century in America (There Is More, Tae-Hyung Lee, p.76).   She was an African-American woman who was a believer in Jesus.  She loved the Lord with all her heart.  Naturally she desired to know more of Jesus.  Where could she do so?  Of course, in the Bible.  Yet, she had a problem.  She couldn’t read.  Since she was a slave serving a white family and like many other slaves in those days, she was illiterate.  No one sent her to school.  Her daily responsibility was to take care of the children of her master.  One day she asked the children if they would teach her to read some words in the Bible such as “Jesus Christ.”  So, the children taught her how to recognize those two words in the Bible.  She was delighted with her new gained knowledge.   One day she got her own Bible.   Whenever she had a chance to be alone, she opened the New Testament and started searching for the word “Jesus” using her index finger going page after page.  Each time she found the name Jesus, she was the happiest woman in the world, because the Name Jesus gave her a great comfort and strength.
  • This morning we are going to discover and rediscover the joy and the significance of the name Jesus in the believer’s life.  Did you know that the New Testament (NT) literally begins and ends with this Name ‘Jesus’?   E.g. Matthew 1:1 (“A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”) and Revelation 22:21 (“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all”).   All nine authors and their 27 books in the NT (without having a conference together), yet under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, focused on one single theme: Jesus.  As a matter of fact, this name consistently appears in every single chapter of the NT except 3 John.  Therefore, we can safely say that the NT is all about Jesus.
  • Here are some trivia for those curious-minded people: the name ‘Jesus’ (Greek Ἰησοῦς) appears 923 times in the NT (cf. the word ‘God’ — appears about 1200 times).  This alone tells us how important the Name Jesus is in the NT.
  • More trivia: the average APB (appearances per book) of ‘Jesus’ is 34 (that is, 923 divided by 27 books).  The average APC (appearances per chapter) of ‘Jesus’ is 3.6 (923 divided by 260 chapters).  The Gospel ‘John’ has the most entries (245 times in 22 chapters: 11.7 APC—almost 4 times more often than the average.  This is the book I recommend to every beginner to read).
  • The Name “Jesus” is ‘awesome,’ ‘amazing,’ ‘incredible,’ and ‘extraordinary.’  This is the name we are going to think about this morning.
  • Let’s ask three questions for ourselves.

    Q1: Do I know this Name ‘Jesus’?

  • Did you know that this Name ‘Jesus’ is the most powerful name in the world?  Did you know that this is the very name that has power and authority over all creatures in the world?  This is what the Bible says about this name: it is above all names in the world, both visible and invisible.   It is the name that is exalted above all nations and rulers both in heaven and on earth.  This is the name to which every knee shall bow and worship (Phil. 2:9-10).
  • This is the name that we must love, fear, honor, and revere above all other names.  E.g. imagine having an exclusive audience with Queen Elizabeth II.   You would show the utmost respect to her and her name.  The same queen once said that she would lay her crown at the feet of Jesus upon His return.  How much more respect should we show to this Name ‘Jesus’?
  • The reality: people tend to misuse this name and profane this name with no idea of what they are doing to and with the name.  Never ever treat this name casually.  Never ever misuse or profane this name.  E.g.  Almost all ‘R’-rated movies are filled with profanity using the name of the Lord in vain.  Screenwriters, beware how you use the name ‘Jesus’, because God concerns His holy name and will hold you accountable.

    Q2: Do I know the meaning of the Name?

  • The name ‘Jesus’ means ‘God saves.’  It is a Greek counterpart of Hebrew word ‘Joshua.’ –Jehovah saves.
  • What kind of image comes to your mind when you hear and think about the Name Jesus?  E.g. around Christmas time, Jesus is a cute little baby boy in a manger—as soon as Christmas is over, we all forget about Him for the rest of year.  Next year, we bring out the cute baby image again.  No, this is not how we should remember Jesus.  We should remember as His name says: God saves.
  • Who is Jesus?  He is the savior of the world.  He came here to save you and to save me.  His name tells us about His destiny (why He was born in human flesh) and His mission (why He had to die on the cross): He died on the cross to save you and me from our sins.  For us, He was crucified; for us, He resurrected from the dead; for us, He ascended into heaven; and for us, He will come again to judge the world.
  • This is the only name given to humanity for their salvation.  See Acts 4:12:Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

    Q3: Do I claim this Name and do everything in the Name?

  • The Bible says, “In whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17–NIV).
  • We are Christ’s bearers.  We represent Christ Jesus in the world.  We are called to do everything in the name of Jesus.  Jesus is our life.  He is our breath.  He is our strength.  He is everything to us.
  • Here are some Scriptural examples of doing everything in the name of our Lord: In the name of Jesus we “Bless, rejoice, praise, pray, forgive, love enemy, prophesy, preach, proclaim, confess, call on, walk, minister, raise the dead, heal, cast out demons, do miracles, welcome, gather, baptize, ask, endure hardships, suffer for the Lord, and remain true to this name.”—All in the name of Jesus.  E.g. Peter healed the beggar in the name of Jesus.    See Acts 3:6-8: 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
  • Reality Check:  How many of the things above do we actually do in the name of Jesus?  Maybe a couple?  None?  It is time that we obeyed God and did everything in the name of Jesus and experienced the wonderful Jesus in our lives.
  • Amen.

     

     

2,000 years ago, Gabriel the angel visited a young woman named Mary in Nazareth.  She was told that she would conceive a boy child by the power of Holy Spirit.  Based on the story of Mary’s conception, Pastor Choi expounds on three qualifications of God’s worker: any believer who wants to work with God must bring “a willing heart,” “courage,” and “communication with God.”

 Work with God

 

Following is a summary of his sermon:

Work with God    Luke 1:26-38

  • The Birth of Jesus Foretold
  • 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
  • 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
  • 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
  • 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
  • 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

 

Introduction:

  • This is a fascinating story from a human’s perspective, isn’t it?  We see God working with a human, a mere country girl.  I am going to point out three things that stood out to me in the story, the things that are required of the believer who would like to work with God.  They are: a willing heart, courage, and getting into God’s Word daily.
  • First, here’s a brief recap of the story: 2,000 years ago, God sent Gabriel, His Chief-of-Staff, to a young woman whose name was Mary.  Mary was engaged to Joseph at the time, and the both resided in a small town called Nazareth whose population was less than 500 (James Strange).  [In 1918, 8000 people.  In 2011, 80,410.  60% Arabs and 40% Christians—wikipedia].   That day, Gabriel told Mary that by God’s power, not by man, she would conceive a boy child.  The child would be called the son of the Most High.  He would forever reign over the house of David and His kingdom would never end.  Then, he left.
  • That’s so great, isn’t it?  So far so good.
  • Let’s try to understand what was going through in Mary’s mind and heart at that time.  One of the best ways for us to understand her mind and heart is to put ourselves in her shoes.  Had you been Mary, how would you have felt and reacted to this very unusual yet awesome visit from an angel?Willing Heart:
  • After the angel left, I believe, fears for the future began to arise in the heart of Mary.  She might have reasoned in her mind as follows: “Wow!  It’s so great that God has chosen me to work with Him.  I am truly blessed.  Now, how am I going to break the news to my fiancé?  I know he is a good man, and I hope he will listen, but will he believe me?  What’s going to happen if he breaks the engagement?  What about my family and friends?  Who’s going to believe my story anyway?  Everyone will eventually find out about my pregnancy, too.  I’d better hide from people.  How else will I cover my belly for several months since it will be obvious to everyone?  Oh, will I be able to endure the cold stares and malicious gossip from the townsfolk afterwards?  I will be lucky if I am not pelted with stones.  Furthermore, how will my child endure the town gossip?  (Indeed, in later life, Mary and Jesus endured a malicious rumor which called Jesus “Mary’s son (not Joseph’s)—understood at that time as illegitimate child”).
  • I love the way Mary responded to God’s call in verse 38: here I am, Lord.  Let your will be done.  She could’ve easily said, “No, I don’t want to!  Choose someone else, God!”  Yet, she embraced God’s will with courage.  God never forces anyone to follow His will against their wish.  Rather, He only and always works with those who say a willing yes to His invitation.   My prayer for all of us is that we too, when invited by God, respond to God’s call with amen saying, “Here I am, Lord.  Use me according to your will.”  That leads me to the next point: courage.Courage:
  • Being favored by God doesn’t always mean that everything in life will be exciting and wonderful.  In fact, being chosen by God to work with Him never means an easy road.  E.g. Abraham, Moses, Jesus, John the Baptist, and Paul.  On the contrary, working with God often means uncomfortable or even painful experiences.  A narrow and rugged road, for sure.  For a long time, too.  In fact, the greater the task is, the harder the road that lies ahead of you.  Only a few will choose to take this road.  Yet, the reward is great!  God’s call is always worth saying yes to.  That was the path that Mary chose to follow.
  • Think of her again.  God already knew everything Mary would face or had to go through in the years to come.  Yet, He went ahead with His plan.  A poignant reminder here: no special provisions or protections were promised to Mary except His presence with her: except the fact that He sent the same angel Gabriel to Joseph, Mary’s future husband, to assure him that her pregnancy was from God’s Spirit, not from man.  “This is happening according to God’s salvation plan,” the angel assured Joseph.   “Therefore, take her as your wife (Matthew 1:20-21).”
  • That’s all what God did for Mary.   No other special provisions or protections.  What’s that mean for us?  Sometimes, when God calls us to work with Him, He provides us with one or two promises or assurances about the plan.  The rest, until its fulfillment, we must endure with courage, patience, and trust in the Lord clinging to His faithfulness.  E.g. My response to God’s call to work in English speaking congregations.  When we work with God, we ought not to despair.  Rather, we should cling onto God, because the Lord will see us through, providing us with His sufficient grace and presence.Encounter with God: 
  • One more thing and I will be done.  Notice here how God communicates with His people.  For Mary: an angel appeared.  Not just an ordinary angel but God’s Chief-of-Staff.  It demonstrates the extreme significance of the case, because Christ’s birth was a water-shed event in human history.  Christ’s birth divided the human history in two periods: B.C. and A.D.
  • God also used prophets to convey His messages to His people.  He also uses dreams and visions to communicate with us.
  • For most of us today, though, God uses the Bible to reveal Himself and His will to us.  The Bible is the best, the clearest, and the surest way to know God’s will for us.  In the Bible, we meet with God and communicate with Him.  In the Scripture, He points us in the directions we need to go.  If the Bible is the meeting place, then our devotion time is the time to encounter with God.  That’s why it is so crucial for us to get into the Bible daily.  E.g. God speaks to me in my daily devotion reminding me of His will in my life.  The other day’s message was “Love does no harm to its neighbor (Romans 13:10).”  The same God in the same way sends His message to us every day.
  • One of the greatest tragedies among believers is this: many of us are so naïve as to neglect this opportunity to meet with God.  Too many of us never meet with God in the Bible, because we never expect to meet with Him in the Bible or to discover His will for us through the Bible.  Consequently, we end up living out our lives as if we are on our own; living life our ways, rather than God’s.  We live every day with no eternal perspective on life.   Let’s get into the Bible daily.Closing:
  • The Almighty God had a plan for Mary and Jesus.  He also has one for you.  You are not an accident.  Nothing is a coincidence in God.  You may not plan to be at a certain place at a certain time, but if God has meant you to be there, He will arrange accordingly, and it will happen (E.g. meeting old friends from Texas at Costco one time).  As Mary served as the instrument of God’s salvation plan, so can you.  God wants you to be part of His plan.  You alone can fulfill that part.  He invites you to work with Him.  His invitation for you may not be as drastic as Mary’s, yet God still works with you in your life.  Are you willing to say yes to His call?  Are you willing to take the narrow path for God? Are you willing to suffer on behalf of Jesus the Lord?  If you do, the reward will be great and eternal.  You will never regret it.  Let’s work with God.
  • Amen.

“Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye, My People,” says your God (Isaiah 40:1).  Today God speaks to us contemporary believers in Christ though the mouth of Prophet Isaiah that it is not the time that we focused on our own comforts.  Rather, it is time that we focused on others’ needs and comfort them by speaking to their hearts.   Pastor Choi explains the meaning of comforting the afflicted and what’s the best way to comfort them–by speaking to their hearts.  He challenges the congregation to reach out to the afflicted throughout the Advent season.

 

  Comfort Ye My People

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

Comfort Ye My People                           Isaiah 40:1-2

  • Isaiah 40:1-2
  • King James Version (KJV)

 

  • 40 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
  • Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

Introduction:

  • Explanation of the Church Calendar: Unlike the regular calendar, it begins with the Advent season, the four Sundays before Christmas, typically falling at the end of November.  It has the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost until the next Advent.  We are entering the season of Advent today.
  • The word Advent originates from the Latin word— “coming.”  In this season, we remember and anticipate the coming of the Lord Jesus.
  • During the season of Advent, we anticipate the second coming of Christ, because His first coming has already been fulfilled.  The Bible says, the first time, Jesus came to save us from our sins.  When He comes second time, He will come, not for the redemption of the world, but for the judgment of the world.  He is coming as the Judge, not as the Savior: “28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).
  • This morning, let us ponder the reasons why God sent Jesus to earth for the first time two thousand years ago: to comfort God’s people and deliver them from the bondage of their sins.  In fact, hundreds of years before Jesus was born, through the mouth of Prophet Isaiah, God revealed Jesus’ mission for His people: comfort.
  • Begin with listening to “Comfort Ye My People”–one of the songs in Handel’s Messiah:Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to
    Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned” (lyrics are based on Isaiah 40:1-2). 

Comfort:

  • Definition: “to make somebody who is worried or unhappy feel better by being kind and sympathetic towards them” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).
  • Pay attention to the word “Comfort” in verse one: it’s a verb and a double imperative.  Twice God commands to comfort.  E.g. To make sure the news is clear, the reporter used to say “Repeat” between the same news.  Here we see God do the same showing His clear intention to comfort His people.
  • Note here that God doesn’t command to comfort those who are already comforted.  There’s an old saying among the preachers: Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.  Obviously, here in the verse, God wants to comfort His people, because they were already afflicted.

Ye:

  • Comfort Ye (Second person plural).  Who are ‘Ye’ here?  Whom does God speak to?  Three possibilities: 1) Septuagint Bible (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures in the 3rd Century B.C.) says ‘priests’—the preachers like me.   2) Other commentaries say ‘heavenly court.’    3) God speaks to you this morning: comfort.
  • If God still uses the Bible to speak to us, this verse is for us: God wants you and me to comfort the afflicted.  In other words, it is not the time for us to focus on our own comfort.  Rather, it is time that we focused on others’ needs and the comforts of the afflicted around us.

My People:

  • God is interested in comforting the people, particularly His people.  Who are God’s people here?  You may say, Israel.  You are right, but there’s more.  It is true that God has called Abraham and his descendants Israel to be His beloved children in the Old Testament.  He also calls you and me to be His people in Christ in the New Testament: we call Him Abba Father.  He calls us children.  As our Heavenly Father, He minds our welfare, both physically and spiritually, both temporal and eternal.  We are His people and His business.  We are the object of God’s comfort.
  • Did you also know that God has chosen you long before the creation of the world?  Long before you were even born.  Mind boggling, isn’t it?   Listen to what Psalmist says to God in prayer: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).  Yes, He has chosen you long time ago and has mapped out your entire life: He knows not only what happened to you, what’s happening to you now, but also what will happen to you in future.  He sees the entire picture of your life.  So, you can relax and put your trust in Him.   You are God’s People and He is your God.   He never regrets that He has chosen you to be His child, because His gifts and call are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).  Rest assured that you are His child forever.
  • As our God, the LORD considers our business His.  As God’s people, God’s business is ours, too.  God protects us, cares for us, and cares about our needs.  As much as He provides us with His presence, protection, and promises, He also expects us to stay faithful to Him: worship Him only, to gladly obey His commands, and to bring honor and glory to His name in our daily lives.  He loves those who gladly submit themselves to Him every day, not grudgingly.  He works with those who offer themselves to Him as an instrument of peace and righteousness.  We are in such a relationship with our heavenly Father.  The Bible calls it a covenant relationship where the LORD is our God and we are His people.   In this relationship, if we go astray from Him, God holds us accountable and brings us back to Him through chastisements.  E.g.  Like the one Israel had with Jehovah God—the background of today’s text: after the Babylonian exile for 70 years due to their idolatry and disobedience, God brings them back home.
  • A little bit of historical background: after the people of God committed the sin of idol worship and injustice, the nation of Israel was destroyed by a foreign enemy.  They, for the next 70 years, paid their wages of sin through the humiliation of slavery.  After the time of hardship had passed, God spoke softly to them saying, “My people, your humiliation and hardships are over.  It is time that you were restored and comforted.”

Speak tenderly (v. 2):

  • How do you comfort someone?  One way to do it is to speak tenderly [literally, speak to the heart] (v. 2).  It is like you saying to a crying child, “Come on now, child” wiping the tears from his/her eyes and giving a hug.  Whatever you do or say, it must register to the heart of the one afflicted.
  • By the way, have you ever tried to comfort someone who was afflicted with either physical pain or emotional suffering?  Was it easy?  Was it hard?  In my experiences, it was never easy.  E.g. I once paid the pastoral visit to one family who lost their precious child due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  I discovered that it was not the time for theological elaboration explaining why bad things happen to us.
  • So, how do you comfort someone?  Of course, we can do that with God’s word of assurance and hope like the one in today’s text.  We can also comfort people by being empathetic (being in their shoes) with them.  By being sympathetic with them (suffering together).  By simply being there for them.   A lot of times you don’t even need to say a word.  Just be there.  Your presence will do it.
  • Action point: Reach out this month to at least one person who is afflicted and speak to their hearts in the name of Jesus.
  • Let us pray.

Today Pastor Choi talks about contentment.  Based on Adam Hamilton’s Book ‘Enough,’ he makes four suggestions to cultivate contentment in the believer’s life: a. Say “It Could Be Worse.”  b. Ask “How Long Will This Make Me Happy?  c. Develop a Grateful Heart  d.  Ask ” Where Does My Soul Find True Satisfaction?”  By doing so, we will find ourselves content in all circumstances.

  Which ‘Tent’ Will You Live in?

Following is a summary of his sermon:

Which “Tent” Will You Live in?                    Luke 12:15, Hebrews 13:5

  • Luke 12:15
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • 15 Then he [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
  • Hebrews 13:5
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
    • “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Fire in the House:

  • Imagine that your house is on fire, and you have five minutes to grab something (besides, the people and the pets) and get out of the house; what would you save?

–       Smart phones, laptop computers, iPads, Bible, jewelry, stuffed animals, pillows, family albums, important documents, purse, shoes, diploma, and so on.

  • Your answer reveals your priorities.  This scenario forces us to think about the nature of possessions, doesn’t it?   We cannot take them with us.  (E.g. Movie: You Can’t Take It With You (1938) a comedy film directed by Frank Capra that won two Academy Awards : Best Picture and Best Director).
  • Nothing in this world is permanent.  Our material possessions don’t last forever, either: in fact, when we are gone, most of our stuff will be obsolete or wouldn’t mean much to anyone else but to us.  That’s why I say “amen” to Jesus who declares, “Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
  • The problem is this: we say that our lives do not consist in the abundance of possessions, yet our actions betray our words.  We live and act as if they do, because most of us are, as Pastor Adam Hamilton puts, afflicted with affluenza and credit-itis.   He also points out to another condition that afflicts our hearts: Restless Heart Syndrome (p. 55, “Enough,” Adam Hamilton).

Restless Heart Syndrome (RHS):

  • Have you heard of restless leg syndrome (RLS)?  It is a medical condition that causes twitches and contractions in the legs.  Restless Heart Syndrome works in a similar pattern, Hamilton claims, but only this time it afflicts our hearts – or souls – instead.  Its main symptom?   Discontentment.  Afflicted with RHS, our hearts never become satisfied with anything: as soon as we get one thing, we hardly take time to enjoy it before we want something else.  We are perpetually discontent.  This is the nature of RHS; if left unchecked, it can destroy us.
  • I am not saying that every type of discontent is bad.  On the contrary, there is a certain discontent that God intends us to keep or never depart from.  We can call it godly/holy discontent.  Our hearts are wired in a way that they would be discontent with certain things.   For instance, James Mackintosh, the great Scottish philosopher and politician of the early nineteenth century, said this: “It is right to be contented with what we have, but never with what we are” (ibid., p. 56).  It is right for us “to be discontent with our moral character, our spiritual life, our pursuit of holiness, our desire for justice, and our ability to love…” (ibid.) because God wants us to grow and improve in these areas.  However, it is never good for us to be discontent with our possessions.
  • Let me say again: with certain things, God wants us to be content and we are to be discontent with others.  The problem is this: we tend to get them mixed.  We tend to be discontent with those things we are supposed to be content with and content with those things we are supposed to be discontent with!

Adam Hamilton:

  • Listen to what Pastor Hamilton says: “The problem is that we tend to be content with our involvement in pursuing justice in the world.  We tend to be content with our level of righteousness—sometimes being self-righteous.  We tend to be content with how much we love others.  We tend to be content with our relationship with God.  We tend to be content with how often we read the Bible and pray.  Generally, we are satisfied with those things that deserve more of our time and attention” (ibid.).
  • “Likewise, those things we should be content with are the very things we find ourselves hopelessly discontented with.  Most of us, for instance, experience discontentment with our stuff – our homes, cars, televisions, gadgets, clothes, and a whole host of other things” (ibid.
  • Here are more examples:

–       70% of the workforce in America is disengaged / discontented with their jobs (p. 8, “The State of the American Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for U.S. Business Leaders,” Gallup 2012).

–       Many of us do the same thing when it comes to the church, our parents, our children, and even with our marriages.

  • The way we live our lives with discontentment is like this:  if we say to God, “I don’t like what you have given me, God, and I want something else.  I want to trade it in and want something better than what you gave me” (ibid., p. 59).
  • Clearly, we struggle with discontentment.  So, what can we do about it?

Four Suggestions for Contentment:

  • Hamilton suggests the following four ways to cultivate contentment in our lives.
  • It Could Be Worse (I.C.B.W.):  whenever you find yourself discontented with something or someone, remind yourself that it could be worse.  John Ortberg, the pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, makes an excellent suggestion as follows: When you are getting into your five-year old car in the parking lot, say, “I.C.B.W.”  As you walk into your house or apartment that is in desperate need of repairs, say, “I.C.B.W.”  When you go to work and are faced with problems and difficulties and disappointments, say, “I.C.B.W.”  When you are frustrated and disappointed with your spouse, say, ”I.C.B.W.”  (ibid., p. 60).
  • This practice helps us to look on the bright side or find the silver lining.  This will also help us to recognize that whatever we may dislike, a thing, person, or circumstance, we can always find something good to focus on.
  • How Long Will This Make Me Happy?:  The second key to contentment is to ask yourself a simple question: How long will this make me happy?   “So often we buy something, thinking it will make us happy, only to find that the happiness lasts about as long as it takes to open the box” ( ibid. )  E.g.  Think of the many children’s Christmas gifts.
  • This practice is especially helpful to control the “urge” of buying something instantly.  Wait 24 hours and see how much you can control your impulsive buying habits.
  • The third key to contentment is to develop a grateful heart.  Gratitude is essential if we want to be content.  Contentment will come to us when we spend more time in giving thanks for what we already have than complaining about what’s missing or wrong in our lives.  Here’s the fact: in any situation, we can either complain or be thankful.  We humans are, as Rick Warren says, animals of habit.  Either we pick up the habit of complaining or we pick up the habit of being grateful.  We can focus on all the things we don’t like, or we can begin to search for the things we like and be grateful for them.  We can focus on the disappointments in life, or we can give thanks for the blessings.
  • Many of us believe that the feelings should come first, but it actually works the other way around.  In other words, do not wait until good things happen so as to be grateful.  Start right away today to be thankful, then your feelings will follow.  Act first and feelings will follow.  E.g.  G. K. Chesterton writes, “There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast’; that a thing must be loved before it is loveable” (p. 50, Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton).  If we say first to someone, “I love you,” and do loving things, then eventually the loving feelings will follow.   Likewise, when we begin to be grateful and express gratitude to God, over time we will find our hearts changed and we will be grateful for what we have.  Then, we can be content.
  • The fourth key to contentment is to ask yourself this question:  Where Does My Soul Find True Satisfaction?  The world lies to us, brainwashing us that it can be found in ease, luxury, comfort, and money.  The Bible, however, answers the question quite differently.  In every book, it reminds us that God alone is the source of our true satisfaction and contentment.
  • Listen to St. Augustine’s prayer: Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee”http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/saintaugus385403.html#wDrUJagtWFKpRTI9.99).
  • Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  The Psalmist said, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you…./  My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods…..(63:1, 5-6).
  • Blaise Pascal wrote: There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”  http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/blaisepasc395508.html#tM5jyq6yQ7GjJ7Xg.99
  • Paul the Apostle confessed that all of his deepest needs were satisfied in his relationship with God through Christ.  “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).  He has found the secret to contentment.  He found Christ to be his source, the One who satisfies his every need and enables him to be content in all circumstances.

Closing:

  • One thing is for sure: the longings of our souls cannot be satisfied with material possessions or an abundance of wealth.  The only real satisfaction of our souls is Jesus Christ.  We can be content because we know Christ is by our side no matter what we’re walking through.  The writer of the Book of Hebrews was right when he said it this way:  “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for [Christ] has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’  So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid’” (13:5-6).  With this assurance, we can face whatever each day may bring with contentment and joy.
  • Which “tent” will you live in?  Discon‘tent’ or Con‘tent’?  Choose today.
  • Let’s pray.

Maureen, member of Manahawkin United Methodist Church, shares her testimony with the congregation on the subject of tithing.

 

   On Tithing

 

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Today, Pastor Choi concludes his sermon series on “Rely on God’s Resources.”  He gives an overview on the topic of temptation covering the characteristics of temptation.  He also identifies two sources of temptation: human heart within and Satan the tempter without.  The sermon also provides practical ways to “shun the bait”: flee from the tempting circumstances, resist the devil, and filter out thoughts.  Pastor Choi exhorts the congregation to lay up God’s Word in their hearts, to pray, and to ask for help from the Holy Spirit so that they may lead a victorious life in Christ.

   Rely on God’s Resources (6): His Help in Temptation

Following is a summary of today’s sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources (6): His Help in Temptation

Hebrews 2:18

New International Version (NIV)

18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Psalm 119:9-11

New International Version (NIV)

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

 

  • There’s no way to extensively and adequately cover the topic of temptation with one sermon.  Today I will give you an overview of temptation.

Temptation is a common human experience: 

  • You are not alone.  When you are tempted, your experiences are not unique.  All of us are tempted.  Everyone, old and young, male and female, goes through temptations almost every day. No human being is exempt from temptations.  Even Jesus was tempted, although He never succumbed to them.  He understands what you are going through, because He’s been there.
  • Temptations are all over, although they may vary among individuals:  drugs (Tim), drinking (Sam), smoking (Kay), eating (Lisa), pornography (Ted), greed (Mitch) (those who want to be rich fall into temptation: 1 Timothy 6:9), gambling (Harry), pride (Paul), vanity (Sue), self-pity (Bea), and so forth.  One of the mysteries in life is that God never removes temptations from our lives (this requires another sermon).
  • Temptations are unavoidable; however, you don’t have to fall into or succumb to them.  “It is better to shun the bait than to struggle in the snare” (Ravi Zacharias).

Understanding of the nature of temptation:  

  • Some of us wonder where in the world the temptation comes from.  The Bible identifies two sources of temptation: the human heart within and Satan without.   The heart of man and Satan the Tempter, the ultimate cause of evil.  One thing we never do in times of temptation: blame God.   Listen to James: “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” (James 1:13).
  •  Where does God stand in temptation, then?  He sets the boundaries of our temptations—how far we can be tempted.  God knows how much each of us can handle temptations and never allows us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.  Furthermore, He helps us by providing the way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Three Factors in Temptation:

  • Imagine you are standing in the middle of Temptation Coliseum.  Welcome to the arena of real life temptations.  You will see three factors involved in your battle with temptation.   First, Circumstances/situations.   Look at your surroundings when you are tempted.  In our daily lives, often we find ourselves in a situation where it is almost impossible to resist the temptation.   E.g. Sam the alcoholic is sitting in a bar with drinking buddies.  The best strategy is to flee from those tempting situations (1 Timothy 6:11).  E.g.2. Consider two men with sexual/sensual temptations.  First, Joseph, in Genesis 39, ran from the master’s wife who seduced him to commit adultery with a perfect circumstance where no one was around them.   Next, consider King David who fell into the temptation.   Joseph ran away from the temptation.  David ran into it.  The outcomes were quite different: Joseph became the prime minister of Egypt, while David murdered Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to cover up his adultery.  So, do not put yourself in a situation where you are going to be tempted.   Do all you can to flee from the situation where you will be vulnerable to temptations.  Flee.
  • Next, beware of the tempter—the Devil.  He tempts everyone.  He tempts you.  He tempts me.  He even tempted Jesus.  Our enemy’s goal is very simple and clear: to destroy us and to nullify God’s work in our life (1 Thessalonians 3:5).  E.g. David Wilkerson said, “I believe Satan’s most powerful weapon against God’s people is temptation and lust that leads to sin.  His purpose is to engulf believers in guilt, fear, and condemnation—to make them discouraged and downcast (bolded for emphasis).  And the more they love Jesus, the hotter and heavier their temptation will be.”  By the way, Satan knows exactly which button to push to tempt you.  This is how he works: he makes a careful observation of your life pattern (the way you act and react) and knows to push the button which you cannot refuse.  E.g. Think of Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Before the serpent approached to tempt her, I bet, Eve herself went near to the forbidden tree often looking and admiring the beauty of tree more often than Adam did.  And, guess who the tempter approached first and how he did it.  “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)
  • Guess what: If Harry the gambler frequented a casino in A.C., Satan would push the button in him–the desire to become rich quick.  He would assail him by all senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue) to make him succumb to the temptations.
  •  The Bible prescribes the best way to handle our enemy: it is to resist the Devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
  • Third, we need to understand our inner disposition.  I don’t have to tell you that our heart and mind are a spiritual battleground.  We feel the tug of war constantly—between the desire to have instant gratification and the heart that resists the very same temptation.  The Bible commands us to “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  We need to learn how to discern and filter out thoughts in our hearts and minds, because some of them are from our enemy who puts the thoughts of temptation in our hearts and minds.  E.g. John 13:2—the Devil put the thought of betrayal in Judas’s heart.  Do not give any chance to our enemy to tempt you through thoughts.

Help is available in times of temptation:

  • Finally, we must not forget that help is available.  Remember that God never leaves us alone in times of temptation.  He provides us with means to resist and overcome the temptations and to lead a triumphant life in Christ.  His help comes in three forms: the Word of God“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11), prayer“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41), and the Holy Spirit—who constantly offers intercessory prayer on your behalf–“the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26).  Therefore, surround and gird yourself with this three-way protection.  You will lead a victorious life.
  • Recap: Flee from temptations.  Resist the Tempter.  Guard your heart and mind with God’s Word, prayer, and the Holy Spirit.

 

  • Amen.

 

Today Pastor Choi talks about God’s provision for His people.  He draws his insight from two verses in the Bible: Romans 8:32 and Philippians 4:19.   He expounds on the basis of provision (love), how God provides all things good along with Christ, and what all things entail.

    Rely on God’s Resources (5)

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources (5): His Provision                    Romans 8:32, Philippians 4:19

  • Romans 8:32
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
  • Philippians 4:19
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Introduction:

  • Group discussion for 3 minutes: “When was the last time you experienced God’s provision for your needs?”

Romans 8:32 (Underline He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not, along with him, all things?)

  • He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?   This reminds us of the truth that our salvation was costly to God: free to us, but very costly to God.  It was not done casually, but very seriously.  It was not done lightly, but it cost the very own life of Jesus, God’s own son, to save us.  That means, in God’s sight, you and I are extremely valuable and precious that God did not hesitate to give up His own son to save us from our sins.
  • Your own child vs. everything else:  Which is more important to you?  E.g. No parent would give up her/his child for anything else.  But, God did because He loves us.  Therefore, let us be forever thankful for our salvation.  Let’s be always proud of what God has done for us in Christ.  Let us never forget that we are children of God.
  •  how will he not : He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Logic behind this verse is this: If God didn’t spare His own son to save us from our sins, how do you think He will not give the rest of the things we need? The logic goes on: No good thing will be withheld from us (Packer, p. 264, Knowing God).  Basically, Paul says here, it is impossible for God not to do this for us.  God provides us with everything that is good in Christ.  Love is the driving force for the provision.  E.g. Sunlight and rain even to the wicked (Matthew 5:45).  His overwhelming and amazing love provides for every need we have.
  • Along with him:  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?    All the things we receive from God come along in a package—that package is the Son of God.  E.g. A Story of Portrait of a Son

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection from Rembrandt’s to Van Gogh’s. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When the Vietnam War broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died while saving the life of another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, around 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 the lives of many men that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he was killed instantly. He often talked about you and your love for art.”

The young man held out his package. “I know this isn’t much, and I’m not really a great artist, but I think your son would’ve 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. The father was drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for it. “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 a visitor came, he directed them to the painting of his son, recounting the story, before taking them to see any other works of art.

The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of all his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited to see the vast collections of Picassos and Raphaels the man had amassed and having the opportunity to bid on the collection. On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. “Who will start the bidding on the picture of the son? Who will bid for the son?”

There was silence. Then a voice from the back of the room said, “We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one.”

But the auctioneer persisted. “Who will start the bidding, $100, $200?”

Another voice shouted angrily. “We didn’t come to see this painting. We came to see the Rembrandts and Van Gogh’s.  Get on with the real bids!”

But still the auctioneer continued. “The son, the son!  Who will take the son?”

Finally, a voice came from the back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man. “I’ll give $10 for the picture.”

Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. “We have $10, who’ll give $20?”

“Give it to him for $10. Let’s see the masters!”

“$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 his gavel.

“Going once, going twice, sold for $10” A man on the front 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 valuable paintings. The man who took the son gets everything.”

God gave his Son 2,000 years ago to die on a cruel cross. Much like the auctioneer, his message is, “The Son, the Son, who’ll take the Son?” because, you see, whoever takes the Son, gets everything! 

Author unknown (http://www.crystal reflections.com/stories/story_130.htm)

  • All things:  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?:  Mind you that all things here never mean to be plethora of material possessions.  E.g. J.I. Packer: “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 (bolded for emphasis).  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). 
  • Here, all things include, but are not limited to 1) God’s calling us to be His children, 2) His justification that made us righteous before the Holy God because of Christ’s redemption, and 3) His commitment to sanctify us into the Christ-like image for His kingdom, and 4) His promise to have us in His presence for eternity.
  • Furthermore, all things that are good, not that we can think of, but that God can think of.  We may think hotdogs and hamburgers are good enough, but God may think of fillet mignon.  We may be content with a cottage, but God may have a palace in mind.  Listen to Packer again: “If God denies us something, it is only in order to make room for one or other of the things he has in mind” (ibid.).  E.g. Lilly Endowment Application: had I been accepted to the program, I wouldn’t have been able to come to Manahawkin congregation this year.
  • Philippians 4:19: (Underline all, needs, and riches)
  •  All: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus— Original Greek says, every need: spiritual, mental, emotional, financial, and physical need.  All our needs in daily life.  Beware of the brainwashing of the worldly teachings that all we need is physical and material.
    Rather, listen to Jesus who says, “Man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
  • Needs: And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus- Note here: needs not wants.   It would be foolish of us to believe that God grants us anything and everything we desire.  Never think or treat God as a genie in the bottle.
  • Riches: And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  Ponder the riches of God who owns everything in the universe.  Will He ever run out His supply for our needs?  This verse is Paul’s everlasting testimony that God supplies all our needs.  So it is mine.  May God help us to prove this truth in our lives, too.    Let our lives demonstrate God’s faithfulness to His promise: God provides.
  • Amen.

 

Today Pastor Choi continues focusing on God’s resources that are available to God’s people.  This time it is God’s peace that transcends circumstances.  He also talks about how we can get God’s peace in our hearts and minds: by trusting in God, by trusting in God’s providence, and by fixing our eyes, hearts, and minds on nothing or nobody but on God.

    Rely on God’s Resources (4). His Peace

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources (4): His Peace                 Isaiah 26:3, 1 Peter 5:7

  • Isaiah 26:3
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
  • 1 Peter 5:7
  • New International Version (NIV)
  • Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Introduction:

  • Three Bible translations caught my attention (King James, New American Standard, New International).  They say that God will keep in perfect peace those who trust in Him.  I asked myself, “Why perfect peace? Why not just peace?  What’s that mean?”  In the original Hebrew text, it says, “You will keep in Shalom Shalom (repeats twice);שָׁלֹ֣ום ׀ שָׁלֹ֑ום .”  The literary technique used here is to ensure the readers, God’s people, to understand the meaning of the writer, God: never ever forget that those whose hearts are fixed on the LORD will have peace in their lives.
  • Number of the occurrences of “Peace” in the Bible: Total 250 times.  OT: 155 NT: 95.  You may wonder what’s the importance of word frequency in the Bible?  The more frequent a word is, the more significant it is.  Besides some common words such as “the (almost 64,000), and, of, to, that,” and so forth, the most important nouns are LORD (6749), God (3995: by the Psalms it occurs about 2000 times, OT: 2678, NT: 1317—OT as twice many as NT)  (cf. Esther doesn’t mention God).  Money (113: 61 OT 52 NT), Pleasure(s) (38: OT 28, NT 10), Health (22), Heaven(s) (622).  Family (205). Worries (4) (OT:1, NT:3) Anxiety (7: OT 5 NT 2). Fear(-s, -ed, -ful) (336: OT 268 NT:68). Peace is very important for us to know.  So is it to our daily life.  Everyone longs for peace.
  • For my curiosity, I checked out how often we have peace in human history.  I put the following question on Google search: How many wars have there been in the world? 
  • Answer:  (bolded certain parts for emphasis)
  • There can be no definite answer to this question, given that when speaking of war we can speak of international wars, intra-national wars. Also there is often contention over what constitutes a war.However, estimates suggest that for 362 days of the year, there is a conflict going on somewhere in the world. This excludes internal (or civil) wars. Estimates also suggest that there have only been 250 years of peace in over 3400 years of documented history. (Some people suggest there have only been 26 days of peace). 

    There are currently over 40 wars ongoing, in which over 1000 people die per year (those which result in fewer deaths are excluded from UN statistics), occurring world wide. There have been hundreds since the end of the Second World War. ”

    (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_wars_have_there_been_in_the_world)

  • As Lloyd Cory said, “Peace is the brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.” (Lloyd Cory, Quote Unquote)
  • We desire not only peace in the world, peace in the nation, peace in society, but also peace at home, and especially peace in mind and heart.

Contents:

  • If all of us want peace so badly in our hearts and minds, why does it seem like so little people have/enjoy it?   Perhaps, the reason why many people don’t have it is because they may look for peace in the wrong places.   When was the last time that you were disillusioned with broken promises of peace made by either politicians or bank accounts?  E.g. I know a retiree from Lucent Technology with millions of dollars of company stocks.  He lost everything when the company stock lost values.  Let’s not be fooled.  True and lasting peace is found only in God.  God alone gives such peace that is good both inside of our hearts and outside in the world.
  • What is divine peace?  It’s the peace God gives to His children.  This is what God’s Word says about divine peace.
  • God is the author of peace, establishes peace, gives peace (Isa. 26:12, Jer. 14:13, Jn. 14:27).  He is our peace (1 Co. 14:33).  Christ is our peace (Eph. 2:14).  Jesus is the Prince of peace.
  • The God of peace wants us to have the peace of Christ in our hearts.
  • The peace that God gives is a kind of peace that doesn’t rely on happy occasions or bad circumstances.  In fact, it never relies on outside circumstances.  It is transcendental.  It is that calm of mind and heart that isn’t shaken by adversity.  It is a rather strange calm that human words cannot explain, but the person knows it when s/he receives it from God.
  • How do we get God’s peace?  There is only one way.  You cannot buy God’s peace.  You get it only by trusting in Him.  Trusting in God is same as putting your heart and mind in His care, in His hands, and in His purpose.  The image in Isaiah 26:3 is this: the heart of the one who trusts in the Lord is sustained by God like pottery is in the masterful hands of potter. Imagine that you want to keep a most delicate jewel in the most secure safe in the world.  Let me tell you: your heart is that jewel and the most secure safe in the world is God.
  •  Reality Check: what do you trust in?  Really.   E.g. Dollar bill “In God We Trust.”  Really?   Do we not rather trust in our bank accounts, health, family, government?  You can easily find out by yourself what you really trust in by looking at what you constantly think of and where your mind and heart are set on.
  • Here’s what I mean by trusting in the Lord.  Trusting in God means that we don’t rely on our own understanding of what’s going on in our lives.  Rather, we believe/profess that God knows what He is doing.  E.g.  A man holding onto a branch of tree on cliff for life, screaming for help.  He prays to God for help…God says, “Let go of the branch.”…Without letting go of the branch, he screams again, “Is anyone else out there?”
  • Trusting in God also means that we set our minds and eyes on Him, not anything/anybody else.  E.g. Apostle Peter walked a few steps on water before he began to sink, because he was afraid of what was going around him when his eyes were off from Jesus.
  • The same Peter speaks to us in 1 Peter 5:7 about the way we handle our daily anxiety: Cast away (and do not claim back) anxiety to God, because He cares for you (literal translation: Your business is His).  E.g.   When the disciples were about to drown in the middle of lake one night, they woke up Jesus saying, “Master, you sure care about us, don’t you?”

Closing:

  • Horatio Stafford, a business man in Chicago, sent his wife and three daughters to Europe by ship while he remained back in the States, intending to join them later.  En route there was a terrible storm and a shipwreck during which their three daughters drowned.  Mrs. Stafford made it to safety and wired back saying, “All of our daughters have been lost.  Only I have been saved.”  He took the next vessel.  As they came near the place where his daughters drowned, the skipper of the ship pointed to the place where the other ship had gone down.  It was there on the deck of the ship he wrote these stirring words: 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” (John Haggai, How to Win over Worry).
  • Horatio’s eyes, his heart and mind were fixed on Jesus, not on the tragedy.  He still declares to us that the Lord knows what He is doing.  He shows us how we dwell in God’s perfect peace: by trusting in the Lord.
  • Amen.

Today Manahawkin congregation celebrated Laity Sunday acknowledging and appreciating all the volunteers who served the Lord and God’s people.  Lay Speaker Louise Jones and John Parker (finance chair) shared the pulpit reflecting on the meaning of family and ministry.

 Laity Sunday 2013

Today Pastor Choi talks about another resource of God that we can rely on in times of need: God’s faithfulness.  Through the eyes of Prophet Jeremiah, the message looks at God’s faithfulness as the best antidote to disappointment and despair.

Rely on God’s Resources (3)

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources: His faithfulness  Lamentations 3:22-23, Numbers 3:19

Lamentations 3:22-23

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,        
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

 

Numbers 23:19

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

19 God is not a human being, that he should lie,
    or a mortal, that he should change his mind.
Has he promised, and will he not do it?
    Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

 

Recap: The last two Sundays, I talked about the divine resources that God has made available to us for our life’s journey.  First, the Holy Spirit is with us.  He is our teacher, comforter, and guide.  Listen to Him always.  Next, we have God’s strength.  Those who rely on God’s strength will never go wrong.

Today, I am going to talk about the third resource of God: His faithfulness.  We often talk about an animal’s faithfulness such as a dog’s faithfulness to its owners.  We are also impressed with and appreciative of people’s faithfulness to each other such as in marriage relationships.  However, we seldom think about God’s faithfulness even in the church.  This morning, I am introducing God’s faithfulness to you as one of our resources we can tap into in times of need (disappointment and despair).   If God’s presence is the best antidote to fear, God’s faithfulness is the best antidote to despair.

Let me begin with the definition of faithfulness so that we may stay on the same page.  I looked it up in the Oxford dictionary and this is what it says: faithfulness: noun of faithful.  Being faithful.  So, I had to look further up the word faithful.  And, this is what it says: faithful– Staying with, supporting a particular person/ True and accurate/ Not changing/ Loyal/ Able to be trusted; that you can rely on—I later realized that all these definitions are indebted to ancient Hebrew words such as Hasad and Amuna: loving kindness and faithfulness, the two divine attributes that often go hand in hand.   In fact, those two words appear in today’s text Lamentations 3:22-23:

  • 22 The steadfast love [Hasad:  חַֽסְדֵ֤י]of the Lord never ceases, [deeds of loving kindness never cease: mine]       
        his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness[Amuna:אֱמוּנָתֶֽך].

 

  • Jeremiah asserts that God’s loving kindness never ceases or comes to an end.  It never runs out.  In God, we find an unlimited supply of mercies and compassion for us.  This surely defies our notion of the Old Testament God who is harsh and cruel, doesn’t it?

 

  • At first, I struggled with this passage as I prepared my message.  Pondering the verses over and over, I felt as if Prophet Jeremiah was saying to me, “You don’t know what I’ve been through!”  Sure, I really don’t know what he has been through.  All I know was the background information of his time.  Since I don’t have the same experience Jeremiah had, I was unable to fully understand God’s faithfulness which Jeremiah talks about; therefore, I felt unqualified to speak about God’s faithfulness.  Furthermore, I was quite struck with his confession despite his affliction.  Such conviction deeply rooted in affliction surely makes his declaration of God’s faithfulness far more powerful, real, and poignant than anyone else’s.  E.g. Holocaust survivor’s testimony on God.  At the end, I reasoned, “Even after such hardship and life’s disappointment, if he can confess that God is still faithful and that God is still worthy to be trusted and hoped for, how much more should I put my hope in God and in His unfailing faithfulness?”

 

  • Historical background: here’s a little background information about Jeremiah and his time.  In the early 6th century, B.C., Prophet Jeremiah was still active.  In front of his eyes, Israel (the Kingdom of Judah to be exact) was destroyed by the foreign enemy in 586 B.C.  They burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem.  The enemy army broke down all the walls around Jerusalem.  Furthermore, they took thousands of people, nobles and commoners alike, as captives to Babylon (Jeremiah 52:12-16).  This historical event is called the Babylonian Captivity that lasted 70 years.  Jeremiah wasn’t sent away, though.  In fact, he was left behind in his homeland with the weak and the poor.  Day and night, he witnessed and grieved over the utter destruction of his beloved country and her people.  His despair and affliction were thoroughly recorded in the book of Lamentations.  In today’s text, Jeremiah begins the chapter with his anguish about the way the Lord treated His own people (“I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; v. 1), yet at the end of his lament, surprisingly he returns to God declaring that he still trusts in the Lord and His everlasting faithfulness for His people.  What a confession!  What a faith!  What a tough example to follow!
  • Jeremiah’s theology: The Scripture says, “To the faithful, God shows Himself faithful” (2 Samuel 22:36).  I believe God showed Himself faithful to Jeremiah because Jeremiah remained faithful to Him.  This kind of faith that Jeremiah had only comes from a man who believes deep in his heart that the Lord does no wrong (Deuteronomy 32:4) to His people.  E.g. Job and his wife.  Jeremiah must have known the verse well as this:  9 Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving-kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; (Dt. 7:9).  He believed that the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful (Ps. 25:10).  To him, the divine works are faithful and just (Ps. 111:7) even though they sometimes mean to His people total ruin and destruction.  He learned anew that God is faithful even when His people are faithless (2 Tim. 2:13).  He says that he experiences such divine faithfulness anew every morning.  His conclusion on God’s faithfulness to God’s people: steadfast and never changing.  God is always faithful in all He does (Ps. 33:4).   He never flip-flops.  He remains faithful forever (Ps. 146:6).  Therefore, he exhorts the audience to stick with God relying on Him and having hope in Him always, especially in times of despair.
  • There must have been a question in Jeremiah’s heart, though:  If God is so faithful to His people, how can any one explain this destruction?
  • Jeremiah realized that the cause of destruction of his country and the ruins of his people lied, not in the Lord, but in their unfaithfulness to the Lord such as worshiping other gods and practicing injustice against God’s commandments.  Their hardship was the direct consequences of the choices they had made: disobedience to God and not keeping His commandments.  In the midst and through the affliction, Jeremiah rediscovers who and what kind of God His God is: the God who holds His people accountable and the God who is faithful to His people and promises.  That leads us to our next verse.
  • Let’s read Numbers 3:19 together in one voice, shall we?
  • 19 God is not a human being, that he should lie,
        or a mortal, that he should change his mind (or he feels sorry for what he has done:   mine)
    Has he promised, and will he not do it?
        Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
  • God is faithful to His promises.  He faithfully keeps the promises He has made for us (Ps. 145:13) (Heb. 10:23).    I have discovered in the Bible where God demonstrates His faithfulness to us His people in the following four ways:
    • He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear (1 Co. 10:13).
    • He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one (2 Thess. 3:3).
    • He will sanctify you through and through (1 Thess. 5:24).
    • He will forgive you your sins (1 John 1:9).

Closing:  So, in times of disappointment with God, and in times of despair, let us recall to our mind and have hope in God and stick with God.  When we go through fiery trials, let us remember that God can be trusted and we can rely on Him.  He stays with us, supports us, and protects us.  He is true and accurate.  He doesn’t flip flop.  He is loyal to us.  He is faithful to us forever.  Rely on His faithfulness.

Amen.

 

Today Pastor Choi talks about the second divine resource that God has made available for us to tap into in times of need: God’s strength.  Expounding on Isaiah 41:10 and Philippians 4:13, he exhorts the congregation to rely not on their own wisdom and might but on God’s.

  Rely on God’s Resources (2)

Following is a summary of his sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources: His Strength                    

  • Isaiah 41:10
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 10 do not fear, for I am with you,
    do not be afraid, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
  • Philippians 4:13
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
  • Recap: Last Sunday, I started a new sermon series, “Rely on God’s Resources,” and talked about the resources God has made available to us for our life journey.  The first resource available to us is the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts.  He resides in every believer who confesses that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior.
  • Today, I am going to talk about the second divine resource that we can tap into: God’s strength.
  • Nowadays, we are living in a constant state of fear and anxiety.  Everything today seems fragile, volatile, uncertain, and unpredictable.  Think, for a moment, of our society, our government, our national security and economy, let alone our health and families.  I don’t have to go further.
  • We are inundated with heart-wrenching, sad, and fear-raising news every single day.  People in the media, in competition with each other, seem determined to bring the shocking news to us by all means.   Do they even care about the impact of news on the audience?   We cannot completely shut down the news, either.   I wish all of us were free from fears and anxieties.  I wish we would be exempt from all life’s uncertainties.
  • However, we are not.  In fact, I, your spiritual leader, am no different from you.  Almost every day, I too go through life’s uncertainties, challenges, struggles, worries, or fears.  I too know what it is like to have worries and fears.  Here’s an example.
  • About twenty years ago, I was in Michigan serving a small congregation.  At that time, my daughter was about 3 or 4 years old.  Like today, back then, I would pray for her every night.  I still remember one particular night.  I was on my knees praying for God’s protection on my daughter from any harm and evil forces.  All of a sudden, in my heart, a fear arose about her future.  The fear was about what would happen to her when both of her parents were gone (she had no siblings and no relatives in the States.  All of them lived in South Korea).  The fear totally gripped me and began to take away the peace from my heart.  That feeling of panic bothered me greatly, so I continued on asking God the question: Lord, indeed, who’s going to be there for my daughter in times of need, when neither of us (parents) is around?  I remember how God answered my question that night.  I love the way He did.  He answered my question with a set of three questions.
  • The first question He raised in my heart was this: Do you remember when you first came to America?  “Yes, Lord,” I answered.   In fact, I still do quite vividly that summer of 1985, August 2, to be exact.  Both my wife and I landed at the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago with several pieces of luggage and $5,000 in cash.
  • The second question from the Lord was: Who took care of you since then?  “No brainer, Lord,” I answered, “It was You.”  Indeed, He provided everything my family needed more sufficiently than we ever imagined.
  • The third question from the Lord was the clincher: “Don’t you believe that I will still be around long after you both are gone and be there for your daughter as I always have been for you?”  That did it!  It melted away my fear right away!  That night, the Lord assured me, once and for all, that He is with me and my family forever and takes care of us!  Amen.  The antidote to our fears is the presence of the Lord.
  •  That leads us to our first verse: Isaiah 41:10.
  • Here, the LORD spoke to His people, Israel, through the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah.  Obviously, Israel as a nation, even back then, was fragile, caught in between the mighty powerhouses such as Assyria and Egypt.  Fear and anxiety of an uncertain future filled up the hearts of the people.  So, God spoke to them,
  • 10 do not fear, for I am with you,
    do not be afraid, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my victorious right hand
    (Isaiah 41:10).
  • Let me unpack the verse.  First, God says, “do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God;” The English translation doesn’t do us justice here: it barely shows the meaning of the original Hebrew.   The better translation would be: God says, “stop fearing.”  God saw His people already engaged in fear and worries about their future.  So, He says to them, “Stop fearing now!”  In the same way, God sees what we are going through.  He knows you and I are already engaged in constant worries and fears.  And, to us, He says this morning, “Stop fearing, my child!  Stop being afraid!”
  • In the next sentence, God provides us with the reasons why we should stop fearing.  Because He is with us.  Because He is our God.  Do you see what I see here?  Throughout the Old and New Testament times, God consistently provides His assurance to His people reminding that He is with them.  However, we the people of God constantly forget that truth and keep worrying about our future.  This morning, He reminds us, once more, “Stop fearing, for I am with you.  Stop being afraid, for I am your God!”  He is not just anyone’s god, but your God.  My God.  E.g.  One pastor, in order not to forget God’s presence with him, would walk for the rest of his life with one hand closed as if he was holding someone’s hand in his.  In this case, he was holding the hand of Jesus.
  • Three promises: After the assurance of His presence with His people, God provides three promises to them: I will strengthen you, I will surely help you, and I will surely uphold you with my right hand of righteousness.  I love the way King James Bible puts it:  “I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”  Three times God repeats that He is our true source of strength and help.  Three times He reminds us that we ought to go to Him for help in times of need.
  • One more thing: with my right hand.  In Hebrew language, the right side means strength and might.  Here, God says to us that He will hold us with His mighty hand and will never let go of us.  Let God’s hand have a grip on you, not fear.
  • That leads us to Philippians 4:13.
  • Philippians 4:13
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
  • Here, Paul the apostle talks about the true source of his strength: not himself, but Christ who strengthens him.
  • Most of us are familiar with this verse and, in fact, this is a favorite verse to many.  How great it sounds!  How wonderful it is to know that we can do all things!  Often, though, focusing on this positive attitude that we can do all things, we easily forget who enables us to do all things.  It would be a great illusion/disaster to believe that we can do all things by our own might.  In fact, Paul is actually saying here that he cannot do anything without Christ who strengthens him.  He declares that Christ alone is the true source of all things possible, not himself.  If we believe otherwise, and if we believe in ourselves, it would be very risky.  E.g. G.K. Chesterton talks about people who are full of themselves in his book “Orthodoxy.” He writes: “Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves?  For I can tell you.  I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar.  I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success.  I can guide you to the thrones of the Supermen.  The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.” (p. 14).  He clearly points out the danger of being full of self: lunacy.
  • Paul wasn’t full of himself, here.  In fact, he discovered a simple yet profound truth in accomplishing anything in life: Do not rely on your own wisdom and might.  Rather, rely on God’s wisdom and His might, and you will never go wrong.    He later went on to say that when he was weak, that was when he was strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).  When he was weak, he relied on God’s strength, which in turn made him strong.  The same line of thinking also helped King David when he was fighting with Goliath.  He said to Goliath, “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 (1 Samuel 17:45).”
  • Do not rely on your strength.  Rely on God’s.
  • Let’s pray.

 

 

Today Pastor Choi talks about relying on God’s resources for our daily walk with God.  As Part 1 of the series, he emphasizes the importance of knowing that we are God’s temple and that the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts.

  Rely on God’s Resources

 

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Rely on God’s Resources: Holy Spirit

  • 1 Corinthians 3:16
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
  • 1 Corinthians 2:12
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.

Introduction:

  • A Christian friend of mine once was walking in his neighborhood.  He heard loud music coming from one of the houses down the street.  Out of curiosity, he headed in that direction.  As he arrived at the house where the music came from, he noticed that the gate was wide open.  There were several bystanders, too.  They all peeked into the house to watch what was going on.  My friend joined the crowd.  Inside the house, a shaman was doing her rituals, dancing to the drums.  Typically, the family would ask for blessings on the house or casting out an evil spirit that made someone sick in the family.  My friend never witnessed this kind of thing before, so he stood there watching for a few minutes.  Then, all of a sudden, the dance stopped along with the music.  Everyone was wondering what happened.  A couple of minutes later, the father of the house came out and asked if there was any Christian among the bystanders.  No one except my friend raised his hand.  Then, the owner begged him to leave the premises so that they could go on with the rituals.  My friend asked the owner why.  The explanation was: in the middle of her rituals, the shaman noticed the nearby presence of a spirit that was far greater than those spirits she was trying to appease.   Furthermore, the presence of that greater spirit prevented her from going on with her dance.  So, she had to stop and asked the father of the house if there was any Christian in the family.  When the owner said no, then, the shaman asked him to go outside and inquire of the bystanders.  That’s how he came out to my friend.  Anyway, as my friend left the place, he realized for the first time that he indeed carried in him a Spirit that is far greater than his own spirit – the Spirit of God, known as the Holy Spirit.
  • In the gospel stories, the same thing happened to Jesus.  Whenever evil spirits saw Jesus approach them, they all cried out acknowledging who Jesus was: the Son of the Most High.  These spirits knew who Jesus was long before than people did.   When people failed to see who Jesus was, all the spirits knew right away and recognized the Holy Spirit in Jesus.  You see, in the spiritual world, the spirits all know that there’s a greater spirit than they, and they also know that that greater spirit lives in us—the believers in Christ.  Say after me, please: the Holy Spirit is in me.  How many of us know this truth, though?  Not many.  This leads us to 1 Corinthians 3:16.

 

1 Corinthians 3:16

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
  • Do you not knowLiteral translation would be: You sure know, don’t you?  Greek grammar here:  the writer expects an affirmative answer from the readers.  They are expected to say, “Yes, we do.”  The same question is still relevant to today’s Christians.  You sure know about this truth, don’t you?  However, lots of believers still would say, “No, I don’t.”  This is one of the greatest spiritual tragedies among the believers today.  The ignorance of the presence of God’s Spirit in them.
  • This is a mere reflection of the spiritual climate in the American Church.  The Bible says that God is with us through His spirit in our hearts.  Yet, lots of believers are simply ignorant of this spiritual truth: we claim and believe that God is with us, but we don’t know how.  Somehow, we believe that God is with us both mysteriously and supernaturally, but never believe that God is indeed with us in our bodies through His spirit.
  • Speaking of ignorance of God’s truth, it is never God’s will for us to stay that way, especially on God’s resources available to us such as His spirit.  I believe our poor experiences of God result from the ignorance of God’s resources in us.  God has made divine resources available to us (and the Holy Spirit is the number one resource,) yet seldom do we tap into those resources.  No wonder our walk with God is so dry and boring.
  • Jesus says in John 14:21, “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me.”   I can safely say, then, that those who don’t keep His commandments don’t love Him.  How can we love Jesus when we don’t even know what His commandments are and what He wants us to do?  The ignorance of God’s Word is equal to not loving Him.
  • You are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you:  What is the temple of God?  It is the place where God dwells.  Not physically but spiritually, since God doesn’t have a physical body like we do.  He is a Spirit.  God’s temple is the place where we come and worship.  It is the place where we offer our prayers to God.  Jesus says God’s temple to be the house of prayer.  Paul the apostle here calls our body that temple of God where God dwells.  As God dwells in His temple through His Spirit, so does He in our body through His Spirit.  (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:22: Holy Spirit in our hearts as mark of salvation, Galatians 4:6, Romans 5:5).  E.g. A person who smokes, as a matter of fact, fills God’s temple with smoke.
  • Let’s be clear on the understanding of our body.  Our body is no longer ours but God’s.  It belongs to God not to us.  God is the owner and we are stewards.  Take good care of God’s temple.
  • Same truth goes with the Church: the body of Christ.  Church is not one of the social gatherings like clubs, but rather it is the place where God dwells among His children.  Wherever we gather in the name of Jesus as church, so is God in our midst.
  • How can it be that God is with us in our hearts through the Holy Spirit?  E.g. A farmer’s wife asked her pastor a question how the Spirit of God can be in millions of believers’ hearts at the same time.  Pastor explained that His presence is like the moon’s reflection on the surface of waters in rice paddies in full moon.  She understood perfectly.

1 Corinthians 2:12

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.
  • Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God:  We see here a spiritual dichotomy of two spirits around us.  God’s spirit vs. the spirit of the world.  God’s spirit dwells and works among His children.  The spirit of the world dwells and works among the non-believers.  We the believers received the Spirit of God.  People who don’t know Christ receive the spirit of the world.  Notice here the past tense (i.e., we have received).  Not will receive, but already received the Holy Spirit.  We have the Holy Spirit in us.  Yet, a lot of us remain ignorant of this spiritual truth and, therefore, live our Christian life without the aid of the Holy Spirit.  Any Christian who walks life’s journey without the help of the Holy Spirit is like a spiritual orphan to God.  Orphans who are left alone without parental protection and love are often a target of mockery and harassments.
  • Naturally, that is exactly what our enemy Satan, the spirit of the world, tries to do to us.  His age old strategy against God’s children is to keep them in ignorance of God’s truth and harassing them like orphans.  In fact, by not getting into the word of God, and therefore remaining in ignorance of God’s truth, we are doing a great favor to our adversary and doing a great disservice to ourselves.  Furthermore, it is far easier for Satan to harass those folks who are ignorant of God’s truth than those who are in the Word of God.
  • Here’s what Jesus did to His disciples before He left earth.  He promised to them that He would not leave them orphaned.  Rather, He would send the Helper and Comforter to each believer.  Listen to what Jesus said to them in John 14:18, 25:            
  • 18 I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate,the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”
  •  In John 15:26, He also promised to send the Holy Spirit, the Advocate:
  • 26 “When the Advocatecomes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.
  • So that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God: so that we may understand what God has freely given us such as  eternal life and salvation.
  • Also, the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23): love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
  • Let us never forget that we have great resources from God, the Holy Spirit.  God never leaves us orphaned.  He is not far from us.  He is within us through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is our helper, teacher, advocate, truth-teller, and comforter.  It is time that we turned to the Spirit of God in us for wisdom, guidance, and courage.
  • Let’s pray.

 

Today Pastor Choi talks about the importance of sharing the good news, the gospel, with our loved ones.  He talks about not being ashamed of the gospel which is God’s power for salvation to all who believe in the name of Jesus and also about responding to Jesus’ call to be fishers of people so that we all together share the eternal life in the presence of God.

   Live the New Life (6): Evangelism

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Live the New Life (6): Evangelism                 Matthew 4:19, Romans 1:16

  • Matthew 4:19
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
  • Romans 1:16
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • The Power of the Gospel
  • 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Introduction:

  • If you had to choose someone who made a world of difference in your life, who would that be?  If you had to name someone to whom you are most grateful, who would that be?  (Talk with your neighbors for the next minute or two.)
  • It could be your parents who gave life and raised you well.  It could be a friend who helped you with finances.  It could be your first grade teacher who instilled the love of books in your heart.  It could be your boss who led you to a great job.  It could be a matchmaker who introduced you to your spouse.  The list goes on.
  • In my case, I would choose someone to whom I owe my life, literally.  First, I would choose my friends at high school.  In the summer of 1973, we were vacationing together at one of my friend’s house whose father was an admiral of the Korean Navy.  One afternoon, we all went swimming at the bay.  I almost drowned that day.  Unless my friends had come to rescue me, I would have been a goner.  Next, I would choose my brother as the person to whom I am most grateful.  If I am grateful to my two high school friends who made a difference by adding forty years to my life, how much more should I be grateful to my brother who made an eternal difference in my life?  How did he do so?  With a simple invitation to join him at church.  I still thank God for my brother who made a world of difference both in this life and in the life to come.  I am eternally grateful to him for introducing me to Jesus.
  • Wouldn’t you like to be the one who makes the eternal difference in someone else’s life?  I would like to be that one.
  • This morning, we are going to think about evangelism.  This is the word that was hijacked and misused by a few Christian politicians especially around election seasons.  It sometimes carries negative publicity among people saying, “Those evangelical Christians!”  It is time that we reclaimed this beautiful word in our faith.  Evangelism is originated from a Greek Word “ευαγγελιον” which means the good news, the gospel.  This morning, I invite you to think with me about the good news, the gospel, especially sharing the good news with others.   What is evangelism?  It is the act of sharing the greatest news of all with others.  This leads us to Romans 1:16.
  • Let’s listen to Paul the Apostle:  16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
  • Paul was not ashamed of the gospel.  Neither should we.   I pray that none of us are ashamed either of the gospel or of Jesus.  America today is not really a gospel friendly nation.  E.g. Pressures from outside such as government, in the name of separation of church and state, make it extremely hard to share the gospel with others.  E.g. Gideons are forbidden to distribute pocket Bibles to students on school premises.   Sometimes we hide our faith from people in the name of privacy.   We’d rather keep our faith to ourselves.  But, let’s make sure that we are not ashamed of the gospel.  E.g.  A boy during the Korean War: didn’t deny the Lord and the Lord spared him from being executed by the communists.  As much as we believe Jesus’ promise that He will give us eternal life in heaven, we must also believe His word that if we are ashamed of Him in front of others, He too will be ashamed of us in the presence of angels (Mark 8:38).
  • It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith: We tend to think that God’s power is always something supernatural, some miracles and wonders.  Yet, here, Paul says the gospel is God’s power for salvation to those who believe.   The same gospel is foolishness to those who don’t believe in Jesus and what He has done.  But, for us, it is God’s power who rescues us from the bondage of sin and the power of death.
  • Here we see that the gospel is for everyone.  Both for Jews and gentiles.  It is for Buddhists and Hindus. It covers all race, gender, and age.   It is God’s power for salvation for all.  Everyone is invited to accept God’s salvation through the gospel.
  • Let’s look at Matthew 4:19 where Jesus invited Peter and his brother Andrew to follow Him.  Both of them were full-time fishermen at the time.  At Jesus’ invitation, both dropped everything and followed Jesus.  The same Christ invites us today to be the same: fishers of people.
  • Fishers of people, not fishers of fish.  We can learn a lesson or two from real fishermen.  Did you know that none of them is casual about their vocation but dedicated?  They work hard every day, no matter how bad the weather or season may be.  Sometimes they have good catch.  Other times, they have none.  However, they always go out to fish.  Their minds and hearts are always out there where the fish are.  They constantly think of the best ways to catch fish, too.  So should every believer.   As fishers of people, our hearts and minds ought to be with people, constantly thinking of the best ways to bring people to Christ.
  • Why does Jesus call us to be fishers of people?  So that people too can come to Him through the message of good news from us.  How can anyone become a believer unless she hears about the gospel first?  And, how can one hear about the gospel unless someone else shares it with her?  E.g. A high school friend of mine.  He and I were buddies, the best friends.  He was a believer before me.  One thing bothered me the most, though, was the fact that he never said one single word to me about becoming a Christian (church, Jesus, salvation, eternal life, or Heaven).  In other words, he had all the good things in Christ yet never shared with me.  Wouldn’t you rather have someone recognize you in the presence of God saying, “Lord, please remember (your name) because s/he shared the gospel with me and led me to Christ?”  This is what evangelism is all about: stand by someone to share the gospel and eternal life together.

Action Points:

  • We don’t have to be like Paul to share the gospel with others.  We can begin with someone whom we already know well; it can be our best friends.  It can be our family members.  It can be our coworkers.  It can be our neighbors.  It can be our school friends.  Let’s begin with someone we are familiar with.
  • Take your friend’s name to God: Ask God to open the door of evangelism for you.  Ask Him to provide you with the right opportunity to share the gospel with your friend.  Ask God to open the heart of your friend so that s/he may listen to the gospel message.
  • Take God’s name to your friend:   After you asked for God’s help in prayer, then go to your friend in the name of Jesus.  Ask God to give the right words that you need to say to your friend.
  • Don’t get discouraged with the first try.  Remember too that believing in Jesus doesn’t have to start with church, either.  Some of the people carry a negative image of the church such as “organized religion,” or “full of hypocrites.”  Stick to the salvation message.  Tell them how much Jesus loves them.  In due time, they will join the church as well.  Be friends first.  Let them see your genuine interests and motives.   Be there for them whenever they need you.  Let them see your light in Christ.
  • Let us pray.

Today Pastor Choi talks about the power of fellowship and importance of gathering in the name of Jesus in the believer’s life.  As the Day approaches, we ought not to neglect to meet together all the more provoking one another to love and to good deeds.

 Live the New Life (5): Fellowship

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Live the New Life (5): Fellowship

Matthew 18:20, Hebrews 10-24-25

  • Matthew 18:20
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
  • Hebrews 10:24-25
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Introduction:

  • 1996 was a tough year for me and my family.  It all began with my wife losing weight.  At first, it was great news (who doesn’t want to lose a pound or two, right?).  However, as she continued losing weight and became very thin, we began to be concerned about it.  Furthermore, because she couldn’t handle stresses well (part of the symptoms), she began to isolate herself from people including her own family.  Later on, her illness was diagnosed as overactive thyroid.   It was finally regulated through radiation treatment.  Anyway, for about six months, while this was going on, I did as much as I could as a husband and as father.  One night, though, I had enough.  I had to let out my pent-up emotions by opening the backdoor of my house and screaming into the corn field.
  • While this was going on, I had to preach on Sundays.  I still remember one Sunday, during the Passing of the peace, one teenager, whose name was Chris, came up to me and said, “Pastor Choi, how are you?”  I don’t think he knew what was going on in my life at the time.  However, his simple three words of greeting brought me to tears.  I felt like, “Here’s someone who finally cares about me.”  That day, I experienced the power of words.  Furthermore, I experienced the power of gathering together.  Without church and without him being there with me, I would have never experienced the power of words that brought me comfort and encouragement.  That’s what I am going to talk about this morning: fellowship and being together.
  • John Donne once said, “No man is an island.”  The Chinese knew that as well.  The Chinese character for “people” also indicates that we need each other in life.  We rely on each other.  We are interdependent on each other.  We are designed to need each other’s company.  E.g.  After God created Adam, He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone (literal meaning of ‘not good’ here is ‘evil’ or ‘wicked’) [Genesis 2:18].  We need each other’s company.  We need to get together even in the context of church, which leads me to Matthew 18:20.

Matthew 18:20

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
  • For where two or three are gathered: How many people are needed to have church?  Two.  That’s the quorum.  Two or three who have the common faith in Jesus as their Savior and Lord.
  •  in my name: At church, we always gather in Jesus’ name, not in the name of the pastor, not in the name of council, not in the name of the township, but in the name of Jesus, because there’s power of gathering in Jesus’ name.  Where does the power come from?  From His presence and from Jesus Himself.
  • I am there among them: When we gather in His name, Jesus too IS there in our midst.  He is present whenever and wherever we gather in His name.  He also provides His protection in our gathering so that Satan can’t touch us.   E.g. It was fun growing up in Korea in the 1960s.  Every family was having babies after the Korean War.  My neighborhood was swarming with boys and girls.  We even organized our own neighborhood boys’ army.  My brother was second-in-command in that army.  I was so proud of him and, whenever my brother was with me, no boy dared to harass me.  He provided me with protection so that I didn’t need to worry about bullies.  Same with our gathering.  When we gather, Jesus is with us.  When He is with us, because of His protection, Satan can’t touch us.  Sadly, though, we often fail to see and realize this truth in our worship, Bible studies, and committee meetings.
  • Think one more time how precious Jesus’ presence is to us.  E.g. King David wrote our favorite Psalm where he said, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).  He believed that one day in God’s presence was far better than a thousand days somewhere else.  He also said,  “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life (Psalm 27:4).”  Who was David?  He was king.  He was living in palace with gourmet food and all the things he wanted, yet he desired to be in God’s tent in the presence of the Lord.  Oh, I wish all of us had such a longing and desire to be at God’s church with God’s people in His presence!  The good news is this: God provides us with a means to create God’s presence among us: getting together in Jesus’ name.
  • So, what do we do when we get together in Jesus’ name?  We do everything in His name, because there’s a power in His name; we praise God’s name among us.  We pray together in Jesus’ name.  We worship together in His name.  We encourage one another in Jesus’ name.  This leads us to the next verse.

Hebrews 10:24-25

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
  • Let us: It invites everyone.  It includes everybody.  It’s not just the minister’s job alone.  Rather, it’s everyone’s (old and young, male and female, members and friends) to stimulate each other to love and good deeds.
  • Consider how to provoke (stimulate, spur, challenge, and rouse) one another onto love and good deeds:  We need to keep praying about fresh ideas to stimulate one another.  We need to come up with creative ways to encourage each other to love more and to do more good.  We can encourage each other by our examples and testimonies to the point where everyone wants to grow in Christ.  E.g. Stella wants to be like Thelma; Thelma wants to be like KC, and so on.
  • Not neglecting to meet together: Two thousand years ago, the author of Hebrews warned us of the coming of the neglect of Christian worship.   In fact, this is Satan’s strategy to keep us from gathering together and driving us into further isolation, loneliness, and depression (by the way, loneliness is one of the biggest problems in our society today).
  • The American church has been neglecting the practice of meeting together in Jesus’ name in the past 50 years.  E.g.  During the 1960s the mainline denominations would have Wed. night and Sunday night services.   Fifty years later, we all dropped those practices.  Nowadays, only Sunday morning services are offered.  Even with that one, the average attendance is now once a month.  At this rate, another 50 years later, we may have no services on Sunday morning on physical premises; maybe only virtual worship will be available encouraging us to worship wherever we are through the internet (by the way, this is already happening).  Folks, by all means, we need to get together in Christ’s name; physically, not virtually, in God’s temple.
  • Encouraging one another all the more as you see the Day of Christ approaching: Church is like a fireplace.  The more we gather together, the stronger our faith will be.  Vice versa.  E.g.  Fireplace.   Each log must stay together for the fire going strong for some time.  Pulled apart from each other, even the log with flame won’t last.  Each one of us is like that piece of wood.  Flame is like our faith.  Our faith gets strong and lasts long when we are together.  Vice versa.

Action Point:

  • Here’s a challenge for the congregation: perfect attendance for the next year.  Make a goal to worship God every Sunday.  As long as you are in town, come and worship with us at our church.  On vacation, worship in a nearby church on Sunday.
  • Tip 1: Be proactive by blocking Sunday mornings strictly reserved for worship.  Do not schedule anything else but worship services.
  • Tip 2: Go to bed early on Saturday night so that you may wake up fresh on Sunday morning ready for church.  Don’t expect that you will be fresh and good when you stay up until 2 a.m.
  • Let us pray: Help us , Lord, to take it seriously to meet together in worship in the name of Jesus.

 

Today Pastor Choi shares his personal testimony regarding prayer: He shares how God revealed Himself to him in prayer, what are the conditions to answered prayers, and some practical tips to effective prayer life including Prayer Journal.

   Live the New Life (4)

 

Following is a summary of his sermon:

Live the New Life (4): Prayer                John 15:7, Philippians 4:6-7

  • John 15:7
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
  • Philippians 4:6-7
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Introduction:

  • Testimony: My New Year’s Eve prayer in 1975.  I still remember what I prayed to God that night. By then, I have been a Christian for two years.   I was a senior in high school and was about to apply to my dream college.  I was a promising student all through the high school years except the last semester which was very critical: I wasn’t doing well in academic tests.  For instance, my Korean SAT scores didn’t turn out good.  Unlike today where you can take two or three tests and choose the best scores, back then in Korea, it was a one-time deal.  I wasn’t doing well in school tests, either.   Those two poor scores convinced my guidance counselor (also my home room teacher) not to allow me to apply to the best college in Korea.   I was crushed.  The hope to get into my dream college was slipping away from my hands.
  • You see, that’s when your loving mom comes in.  Knowing her son was having a hard time at school with the counselor, she came to my aid.  She went to the counselor and tried to reason with him that her son was well qualified to apply to the best college.  If not, she argued, at least he deserved to give it a try.  Well, he wouldn’t budge.  For about a week in December, a tug of war was going on between the two.  In the meantime, I was frustrated.  So, I decided to go to the Lord in prayer.
  • You see, I learned from the church that we Christians are supposed to pray to God in our hardships, right?  Up until that point, although I prayed every day, like anybody else, I didn’t truly understand what the prayer is all about.  My prayers were more likely lukewarm and nominal, not meaning much, all words that are cut and dried.  Anyway, that night, I walked into the prayer room of my church around 11 o’clock.  It was New Year’s Eve.  Normally, there was a curfew after midnight, but that night was special, so I didn’t have to worry about rushing home before midnight.   So, I prayed to the Lord as follows: “Lord, I am confused and frustrated.  I need to hear your voice right now.  All I care is to know what you want me to do.  Just tell me which college: do you want me to apply to my dream college or the other college my counselor recommends?   I really need to know tonight before I go home.  If you don’t tell me tonight, I won’t believe in you any longer!” How foolish I was to give the Lord such an ultimatum!   I will continue my story later in the sermon, because it is connected to Philippians 4:6-7.
  • This morning, we are going to think about prayer.  If the Word of God is the food to our soul, prayer is the breathing to our soul.  Our soul depends on it.  Without prayer, our soul will perish.  If you think your soul will be fine without prayer, you are gravely mistaken.  When you don’t pray, your soul dies deprived of spiritual breathing.  When you don’t pray, your soul would pant for prayer, like our body would pant for the air if we don’t breathe even for a minute.  Consider all the people of God in the Bible.  Did they pray?  Yes, in fact, every one of them prayed to God:  Abraham did.  So did Moses.  So did King David.  All the prophets did.  Even Jesus did.  God revealed to them and communicated with them in prayer.  He answers those who call upon His name (Ps. 99:6).
  • Let’s listen to what Jesus says about prayer.    First, John 15:7.

John 15:7

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
  • If you abide in me:  Jesus lays out here two conditions to answered prayers.  First, we need to abide in Jesus.  What’s that mean?  It means to remain in Jesus.  Remember, my sermon point in the past few weeks?  The sign of a believer in Christ is to remain in Him.  To remain in Jesus means to be in Him.  To be in Christ means that whatever happened to Christ also happened to you.  When Christ was crucified, so were you.  That means, your old self is dead when Christ was dead.  When Christ resurrected, so did you as a new creation.  Your old boss, that is you, is gone and the new master has come, that is, Christ.  He reigns in you.  You no longer live for your selfish interests.  Rather, you live for Christ to bring glory to His name.  You no longer pursue your selfish desires.  You rather serve Christ and others.  Don’t forget: no prayer based on selfish desires and motives is affirmatively answered.
  • If my words abide in you:  this is the second condition to answered prayers: let Christ’s words abide in you.  This means that when you pray, you must cling to the word of God and to the promise that God has given you.  It will make your prayer life very effective.  What is Christ’s words to prayer?  It is like the nail on the wall to the clothes.  Let’s say you want to hang your coat on the wall, you need something to hang onto such as a nail.  No sane person keeps trying to hang the coat on the flat surface.  It’s the same with prayer.  You pray to God with the backup of God’s promise.  For instance, if I ask for peace in my heart, instead of saying, “Lord, grant me your peace,” I would say, “Lord, you promise that you will give me peace that the world cannot give nor take away from me (John14:27).  You are the author and giver of peace.  So, Lord, please grant me that peace.”  It has a much better chance of being answered.
  • Ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you: Christ wants us to expect great things from God in our prayers: ask for whatever you wish.  Wow!   When we seek God’s glory and do what He is pleased with, and when we cling to His promise in the Word, we can ask whatever we wish and it will be answered: E.g. My experience with my brother who was involved in a motor cycle accident.  Serious head injury- blood clot in his brain, a size of tennis ball–doctor told the family, 50-50 chance of survival after surgery–family opted out–in comatose for 15 days–woke up on Day 15, after another two weeks he walked out of hospital on foot without having any surgery.   God gave his life back to me after I asked for a miracle in prayer and fasting.

Philippians 4:6-7

  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Many of us are familiar with this verse.  In fact, it is one of my favorite verses in the Bible.
  • Do not worry about anything: It literally means to stop worrying.  Worries won’t do anything, will they?  Actually, they do one thing.  They keep us awake at night; they keep our prayers from reaching God’s throne room.  They also choke up our prayers. They are the enemy of prayers.   So, stop worrying.
  • But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving:   The key word here is thanksgiving.  We must wrap every prayer with thanksgiving to God.  Thanksgiving is a key to the answered prayers.  Many of us, though, don’t bring thanksgiving in prayers and wonder why God doesn’t answer our prayers.  In fact, some of us bring in the opposite of thanksgiving to our prayers: grumbling.  From now on, be sure to bring thanksgiving into your prayers and see how your prayer life changes.  E.g.  A child asks for her favorite candy from her mother.  She wouldn’t start with grumbling.  She would have a far better chance if she starts with words of gratitude.  It works the same way with our heavenly Father.  Wrap your prayers with thanksgiving.
  • On Petitions: be specific.  Don’t ask God for general things: E.g. Lord, give me a good day today.  Lots of people who don’t believe in God have a great day, too.  This kind of prayer is too general.  Here’s another one: Lord, give me good health.  A lot of people who don’t say a prayer enjoy excellent health as well.  Whatever you pray for, be very specific that once answered you cannot deny that it is from God.  E.g. Gideon and the wool test.   E.g.2: Blind men and lepers asked for a specific healing from Jesus: “I want to see, I want to be cleansed.”
  • Peace of God will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus: E.g. The second half of my story “New Year’s Eve Prayer.”  Remember I gave God a foolish ultimatum that night?  Well, my prayer time was over and nothing happened.  I didn’t hear anything from God saying either way.  So, I said to God, “All right, then.  This is it.”  And, I went home and had a midnight snack.  While I was eating, the Holy Spirit in me said to me, “My child, everything is going to be all right.”  Then, for the first time in my life, I had a peace overflowing in my heart that surpasses all understanding.  The end result?  My teacher reluctantly allowed me to apply to my dream college.  And, I took another entrance exam and I made it!  Praise God!  Then, one day not long after, I went to the school to thank my teacher for his support.  I saw him working at his desk.  As soon as he saw me, he stood up and literally ran up to me.  He grabbed my hand and said, “Congratulations!  Kyewoon, you saved my face!  Thanks a million!”  Later, I discovered that out of 54 students in his home room who all applied to college at the same time I did, I was the only one who made it into any college.  The others all failed.  Praise God who does things beyond our imaginations!

Action Points:

  • Start your own prayer journal today:  Three columns: first column is for the date when you started your prayer.  Second column is for description of the prayer: what you pray for.  The third column is for the date when your prayer was answered.  E.g. During my first year in college, I kept my prayer journal for six months.  96 entries were all answered (Yes, No, and Wait).  That convinced me that the Lord answers my prayers.  Prayer is real.
  • Never assume that prayer won’t work until you try it.  God wants you to discover the power of prayer by yourself by experimenting with it.
  • Don’t expect that God will always answer your requests immediately.  Sometimes He does.  But, other times, the answer is to wait.  God answers our prayers in His time.
  • Don’t assume that God will always say yes to every request of yours.  Sometimes He says no, like any other loving parent, especially when He knows it would hurt you rather than help you by granting your wishes.
  • Don’t assume that God will say no all the time, either.  He will surprise you with answers beyond your imagination.
  • One thing is for sure: once you experience the power of prayers firsthand, you will never depart from it.  We cannot live without prayer.
  • Start praying today.

 

Today Pastor Choi talks about the importance of getting into God’s Word daily.  He expounds on 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Joshua 1:8 followed by his challenge for the congregation, that is, to finish reading the entire Bible in a year.  Several people took up this challenge today.

 Live the New Life (3)

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

Live the New Life (3)    2 Timothy 3:16-17, Joshua 1:8

  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
  • Joshua 1:8
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.

Introduction

  • Story: A youth group leader, in front of the youth group one night, threw a Bible on the ground saying, “This Bible is useless, unless you use it!
  • None of us would throw the Bible to the ground; most of us would get offended with the way the youth leader treated the Bible even for the sake of illustrating his point, but it surely makes us think about the way we treat our Bible.
  • What is the Bible to you?  I believe all of us have a healthy dose of respect for the Bible:  we readily acknowledge that it is more important than any other ordinary book.  We also know that it is the best-selling book in human history.  No book ever broke that record or will.  Some of us are even proud to have family heirloom–antique bibles that dated 200 years back, printed in the 19th century, so and so on.
  • However, when it comes down to using it, to many of us, it is a useless book since it is a closed book.  I heard about some churches in the medieval times that literally locked the bible in chains so that no one would dare to steal or open it, but today doesn’t seem much different from those times: the Bible is rarely opened, although it is never kept in chains.  The Word of God rarely gets our attention except on Sunday morning services; except on weddings and funerals; except at Sunday school.  To be painfully honest with yourself, when was the last time that you actually opened it for the sheer joy of reading it, studying it, and finding God’s will for you?
  • Someone told me this joke: a pastor once visited a family and asked them to bring a bible.  In no time, a child went in and brought out Sears-Roebuck catalogue!  Some of us spend more time in watching TV, surfing the internet, reading newspapers, magazines, and shopping catalogs than spending time with God’s word.    Welcome to the spiritual reality in America!
  • I am not merely interested in pointing out how poorly we the believers do in terms of getting into God’s Word.  However, if we believe that the church is the hope of the world, if we claim that we are the agents for the transformation of the world, and if we preach that we can cure many of the societal maladies, then we must start with our own malady first.  Before we dare to fix all the problems of our society, we need to go back to our basics so that we start with a right foot.
  • Do not believe in Satan’s lies: 1) The Bible is too difficult to understand.  2) The Bible is a myth.  3) The Bible is not relevant in today’s world.
  • It is sad that we don’t get into the Word of God, even though Jesus said that man cannot live by bread alone but by the Word of God.
  • Yes, it is equally tragic that the vast majority of the believers in America don’t even try to open the Bible of their own volition.  In my humble opinion, though, the greatest tragedy of all is that we don’t even know what we are missing in our life journey.  We are holding the Bible in our hands, yet we don’t even know the worth of the Bible in our lives: the Bible, the greatest tool God has made available for His children for their life journey.  E.g. Like a beggar holding a $100 bill in his hands not knowing what it is worth.
  • So, today, as part three of my series, “Live the New Life,” I am going to focus on the importance of getting into God’s Word.  Anyone who takes his/her faith seriously also takes God’s Word, the Bible, very seriously.
  •  2 Timothy 3:16-17
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. 
  • Let me unpack this verse sentence by sentence.
  • All scripture is inspired by God: All means everything: every scroll of the Bible.  Every passage.  Every chapter in the Bible.  From cover to cover.  Every single book in the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation.  Every single of them was inspired by God.  The meaning of “Inspired by God” is God-breathed.”  E.g. God created Adam out of dirt [Hebrew word for dirt is ‘adama’] and “breathed” into him “life.”  That is, the Scripture is God-initiated, God-planned and God-completed.  It is not human-made or a myth.  God is the author using human hands and minds to write down His words.  The Bible is the compilation of words that God has spoken to humanity through prophets over centuries.  For your information, there are 66 books altogether (39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament) and over 40 authors.  It took centuries to complete, yet there’s one consistent theme underlying the Bible, that is, God’s covenantal relationship with humanity (from Genesis 2:16-17 to Revelation 21:3).  The Bible is not a book for science nor for history (although there are some elements and references to them), but it is a book about God’s salvation plan for humanity.  So, naturally, anyone who is serious about salvation also needs to take it seriously.  Let’s pay attention to the next phrase in the verse.
  • useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness:
  • The Bible is good for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
  • My own translation: The Word of God is useful for teaching, conviction, improvement, and learning through discipline in righteousness.
  • Who doesn’t need wisdom from God?  Who doesn’t need conviction from God once in a while?  Who doesn’t need improvement in character which God is specialized in?  Who doesn’t need discipline?  For all these benefits in life, God has given us the Bible.  It is the best tool for teachers and parents, the best tool for repentance, the best tool for improvement, and the best tool for learning through discipline.
  • so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work: This explains why we need God’s Word.  God has called us for good works.  He has called us to be the changing agents of the world.  And, God uses the Bible to equip us so that we may be proficient and be effective in every good work.
  • Out of so many things He could’ve given us for the preparation for our life, He has chosen the Bible.  This leads us to the next verse.
  • Joshua 1:8
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.
  • Background information on this verse: Moses passed away after leading the congregation of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness.  Joshua was chosen to be the next leader.  This verse is a part of God’s command to Joshua.  As God commanded him to lead the congregation of Israel into the Promised Land, He commanded him to be strong and courageous –4 times in one chapter! (v. 6, 7, 9 and 18).  Be strong (firm) and be a man (Greek translation).  As God sent Joshua and Israel on the road, He promised that He would be with them (v. 9).   He commanded Joshua not to be afraid of anything but rather be careful to act on God’s Word.  Then, He gave this verse to Him.
  • Have you ever wondered what makes a person strong and courageous?  It is not the muscles of Mr. Universe that make us strong (maybe physically but not spiritually).  You don’t have to be a man of steel (Superman), either, to be courageous.  What makes a person strong and courageous?  God’s Word.
  • Think again.  For the great task of conquering the Promised Land, the LORD gave Joshua two things: assurance of presence, and the Word of God: not a million soldiers, not an army of angels, but the Word of God.
  • What would you ask God for your life tasks that await you?  More money, more education, more technology, more troops?  Let me tell you what God would give you: His promise that He is with you and His Word—the Bible.
  • Once I read a book of a man who claimed that he had been to Heaven.  One of the questions Jesus asked him in Heaven was: Have you read my Book?  I hope all of us would answer, “Yes, I have.”
  • I thought about myself the reasons for knowing God’s Word.  It is always good to ask questions like “Why do I need the Word of God?”  Here’s my answer: first, I read the Bible to know God and His plan for me.  God reveals Himself to me through the Bible.  That’s why I want to read the Bible.  Next, I want to have a life fulfilled (connected, balanced, and meaningful).  God’s Word always gives me the right perspective and makes me wise.
  • Challenge: Read the entire Bible from cover to cover in a year.  Then, I will record your name in my book “The Book Club” (like your names are recorded in the Book of Life in heaven).
  • The Book Club: at Embury (previous congregation that I served as pastor), 27 people in 16 years completed the challenge and their names were recorded in the Book Club (hall of fame).  Can Manahawkin beat that?
  • Let us pray.

 

 

 

 

 

As part 2 of his new series on “Live the New Life,” Pastor Choi talks about the meaning of worship and the meaning of love of Jesus.  The marks of a believer in Christ are to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth and to keep Jesus’ commandments.

Live the New Life (2)

 

 

Following is the sermon script in its entirety:

Live the New Life (2): Worship and Obedience to Jesus

Romans 12:1, John 14:21

  • Romans 12:1
  • The New Life in Christ
  • 12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
  • John 14:21
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Introduction:

My story in 1980 in R.O.K. (Republic of Korea) Army:  A superior of mine hated me for no reason from the day one and persecuted me for the next year to the point where one night he humiliated me in front of everyone.  He landed his fist on my chest several times that night….  To be continued later in the sermon.

Recap: 

  • I spoke last Sunday about us the Christians being in Christ.  If Christ is the book, we are the bookmark.  Whatever happened to Christ, in God’s eyes, it also happened to us.
  • That’s why the Bible says that when Christ died on the cross we our old self died, too.  When Christ resurrected from the dead, we were resurrected, too: being born again as a new creation in Christ.  I said that it is the Christ who makes us a new creation, not us changing our behavior.
  • If you consider yourself a new creation in Christ, check out whom do you serve in your life: Do you serve your selfish desires, your old master?  Or, do you serve the new master Jesus Christ?
  • Remember you are in Christ.  You serve only Christ, not yourself.
  • Let’s go to our first verse Romans 12:1.
  • 12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Present Your Bodies:

  • Apostle Paul makes a plea for us here in Romans 12:1.  Present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable.     He exhorts you and me to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God.  The new life in Christ means to worship God every day.
  • Present your bodies:  Do you do that?  Most of us don’t, because we didn’t hear about it before, right?  Do I do that?  Yes, I do.  Why?  First, God commands me to do so.  Next, I think it is a great way to start the day.   It works much better than a morning coffee for me. This is what I do every morning in my bed.   Every morning as soon as I wake up, I say to God, “Lord, I offer myself to you today as an instrument of righteousness, joy, and peace.  Use me for your glory.”
  • Living Sacrifice: Sacrifices had been an integral part of worship.  Where there was worship, there were sacrifices.  We can use a historical understanding of worship here.
  • In the Old Testament days, no one would ever go to God’s temple without sacrifices/offerings.  Of course, you go there to pray and worship; however, you always bring something to God, either animals or grains in the form of sin offering, or peace offering, or even thank offering.  We the people of God in the past two thousand years, inherited and we still continue the tradition; no more animal sacrifices but we bring offerings to God in worship.
  • Offerings were more than bringing animal sacrifices to God back then.  Today, offerings mean more than just dropping a couple of dollars on the plate on Sunday.   It means to give all you have—yourself.  E.g. A missionary to Korea, Horace Grant Underwood: when he was a child, he had no money to give, so he wanted to give himself on the offering plate.
  • Holy and acceptable to God: You don’t want to give God anything that isn’t the best.  You want to present yourself as holy and acceptable to God.  That means, you examine yourself before you give yourself to God.  You repent any sins you have committed and ask God to forgive your sins.

Spiritual Worship:

  • What is worship? Is it to show up, sit up, sing up, listen up, pay up, and stand up?  No, it is much more than that.  Worship is an encounter with God where you offer yourself to God.  That’s why even though you can’t sing, even though you have no money to give, and even though you don’t get a thing from the pastor’s sermon, you still join others to worship God.  The main purpose of worship is for you to come and offer yourself to God.  It seems, though, we do everything in worship but the offering ourselves part.
  • Paul talks about spiritual worship.  What is spiritual worship, then?  It means for us to offer ourselves to God in spirit and in truth.  In spirit means we are not limited to space and time.  Although it is important to worship God with other believers at church, we don’t have to limit our worship services only to Sundays.  We can worship God more than once a week.  God wants us to worship anytime and wherever we are; we can worship in nature (note: it doesn’t replace the regular corporate worship at sanctuary).  We can worship in the car.  We can worship in our private room while praying.  We worship God in spirit, because God is spirit.
  • Spiritual worship also means that we worship God in truth.  In other words, we don’t worship with our feelings alone.  We worship God with God’s Word the truth.  That’s why in the Protestant tradition, the Word of God is so important that it takes up about 1/3 of the worship time.  We Methodists take this tradition of proclaiming God’s Word very seriously.  I will speak more about how important God’s Word is in our life next week.  Let’s move on to the next verse, John 14:21.
  • 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Love of Jesus:

  • Does everyone love Jesus?  No, not really.  I got that.   What about you?  Do you love Jesus?  If you say, “Yes, I do,” have you thought about what you mean by that?  Is it that fuzzy and cozy feeling that you have toward Him?  Is the love of Jesus arbitrary that it changes often depending on whose definition of love we go by?  E.g.  A popular song I used to hear on radio in 1970s:  “Love is feeling, feeling is love.”
  • Let’s hear what Jesus says about the love of Him.  He says, if anyone loves Me, s/he will know My commandments and keep them.  His love language is action, not just words.  E.g. Gary Chapman’s “5 Love Languages”: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.  Obviously, the love language for Jesus is action.  Love is a verb.  Jesus says, “Show your love through keeping my commands.”  We would be a hypocrite if we confess that we love Jesus and yet don’t keep His commands.  E.g. “I love Jesus to death, yet I will not forgive John Doe.”

Revelation of Jesus:

Remember when Jesus revealed Himself to you?  I do.  I am sure you too can share with everyone how Jesus appeared to you.  Of course, Jesus can use different venues to appear to us; dreams, visions, written words, prayers, and circumstances; however, there’s a common denominator:  Jesus reveals Himself to those who obey Him (differently put, to those who keep His commandments)—that coincides with the Bible:  E.g. My experience in the ROK Army (Part 2).  On the following day after this private lynching in front of everyone, he came up with a bad gum infection that made his mouth swollen twice bigger than normal.  He couldn’t eat or chew anything.  He was lying down in his bed that day.  As soon as I heard the news, I said, “Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!  The Lord finally avenges for me!”  Well, that joy didn’t last long.  A minute or two after the celebration, the Lord quietly spoke to me saying, “Go and pray for him.”  I said, “No, I don’t want to!”  Of course, you know who won.  The Lord convicted me with the verse where He says, “Love your enemy (Matthew 5:43) and “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20).  So, that afternoon, I visited him with a loaf of soft bread and a carton of milk.  I also prayed for his healing.  After he got better, he changed 180 degrees!  My worst enemy became my best friend.  From then on, every Sunday morning, he ordered everyone under him to go to church.  I couldn’t have dreamed of any other better way!  I have experienced God’s promise fulfilled here: When a man’s ways please the Lord,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
 New King James Version (Proverbs 16:7). Jesus also revealed to me through my obedience to His commands.

  • All of us want to experience Jesus in a real way, not a superficial way, don’t we? In reality, though, many of us know Jesus only through our head knowledge: we read devotionals and commentaries or we hear someone else’s testimonies.  Jesus too wants you to know Him in person.  He wants you to experience the living God, the Almighty God, in a tangible way so you can say to everyone that you know God and Jesus.
  • So, how do we fulfill our desire to know Jesus personally?  By fulfilling the prerequisite first, that is keeping His words.  Let’s say you want to take a course “Economics 201” in college.  Now, you are told that you have to take Economics 101 first before you take this class.  Same with experiencing God.  You have to love Jesus first through keeping His commandments before you expect Him to appear to you.  When you love Him, He promises that He will love you back and reveal Himself to you.
  • Remember: To love Jesus boils down to know Jesus’ commandments and keeping them.  I will speak about this more next Sunday.

Action Points:

  • Say a daily prayer to offer yourself to God as a living sacrifice.
  • Dust out your Bible and put it in the most visible place.  Start using it.  Download the Bible on your smart phone.  In fact, next Sunday, I want everyone to bring your personal Bible to church.  Invite your friend to bring the Bible to church, too.
  • Amen.

 

 

Pastor Choi started a new sermon series today “Live the New Life”:  Today he talks about what and who makes a person a new creation.  It is not what we do or say that makes us a new creation in Christ.  It is “being in Christ” that makes a person a new creation.

Live the New Life

 

Following is the sermon script in its entirety:

Live the New Life                            2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20

2 Corinthians 5:17

New King James Version (NKJV)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Galatians 2:19-20

New King James Version (NKJV)

19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Let me begin my sermon with a definition of Christian: a follower of Christ.  This definition comes from Christ’s own words in Matthew 10:38: He said, “and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (New Revised Standard Version).   In Mark 8:34, Christ said to the crowd and His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (New American Standard Bible) .

  • You are not a Christian if you don’t follow Jesus.  And, you can’t be a true follower of Jesus until you deny yourself, take up your cross, and live a life where your old self is dead.  Neither can you claim that you are a new creation until your old self is dead and gone.  Without the old self passing away, there’s no new creation.
  • Irony: A vast majority of Americans claim that they believe in Christ.  Today I see so many crosses that are abandoned by so-called “believers” and strewn along the path to heaven.  There are so many “church goers” who never deny themselves, either, that means, their self is still well alive and kicking, yet they all claim that they are Christians.   Are we not kidding ourselves?
  • Listen to the Bible truth: it says that your old self is already dead, because you too were crucified with Christ.  “Wait a minute,” you might say, “I have never died, let alone being crucified!”  Yes, you heard me right.  Let me say it again: your old self is dead, because you have been crucified with Christ.  Yes, you too died when Christ had died two thousand years ago at the cross.  Hard to understand?  Let me explain to you what I mean by that.  I must go back to today’s verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17.
  • Listen again what it says: if anyone is in Christ, s/he is a new creation, behold the old has passed away (like people passing away) and the new has come.  It is absolutely crucial for you to understand this verse so that you may realize what makes you a new creation in Christ.  It is not what you do and say that makes you a new creation.
  • The Bible doesn’t say: if anyone prays, s/he is a new creation.  It doesn’t say: if anyone goes to church, s/he is a new creation.  It doesn’t say: if anyone reads the Bible, s/he is a new creation.  It, rather, says: If anyone is in Christ, s/he is a new creation.  The old has passed away and, behold, the new has come.  What’s that supposed to mean?
  • The key phrase here is “in Christ.”  Let me explain the meaning of being “in Christ”—bookmark (I owe this understanding to Watchman Nee, the late Christian leader in China).  Consider that Christ is the book and that we are the bookmark in the book.  Whatever happens to the book also happens to the bookmark: if it goes in the water, the bookmark too gets wet.   If the book goes through fire, so does the bookmark.  Everything that happens to the book also happens to the bookmark.  Same way with Christ and you: since you are in Christ, whatever happened to Christ, it too happened to you in God’s eyes.  Therefore, when Christ died to pay the wages of your sin, since you were in Him, you too died.  When Christ resurrected three days later, since you were hidden in Christ, you too were resurrected as a new creation.  That’s what it means in Christ you become a new creation.
  • Now, with that understanding, let’s go to Galatians 2:20.  Paul says here that he has been crucified with Christ.  Do you understand now what he’s saying here?  He’s in Christ, therefore, when Christ was crucified, so was he.  When Christ resurrected from the dead, so did Paul.  No longer is it I who lives, he declares, but Christ who lives in me.  He recognizes the very important spiritual truth here that his old self is dead.  His old self, his old master, is dead and gone forever.  And, behold, the new master, Christ, has arrived.   The old master has passed away and the new has come.
  • Let me reiterate what it means that your old self is dead.  It means it is dead.  It means it’s gone forever.  It means you are no longer in charge of your life.  You no longer serve the selfish desires of your old self.  Your old self no longer calls the shots.  Instead, you now listen to your new boss who’s in you (remember Christ is in you?  Revelation 3:20).  His name is Christ.  He calls the shots in your life: in all you do and say.  Not you.  But He.  By the way, don’t worry.  He is not a cruel dictator who takes advantage of you and serves His own needs at your expenses.  Some of us have that kind of misunderstanding of Jesus (E.g. my high school friend).
  • Listen to me again.  You never meet such a wonderful person as Jesus.  He, the new boss, is the Savior who loves you so much that He died for you.  He laid down His life for you.  He always means nothing but the best for you: both in this life and in the life to come.  That’s what Paul means when he says Christ lives in him and he lives for Christ.  Do you hear him here?  He says, he wants to serve his new boss voluntarily and willingly, not reluctantly or under compulsion.
  • Remember this spiritual truth: the selfish old master is out and the benevolent new master is in.  You’d better celebrate this change of ownership in your life.  E.g.  A certain prison inmate hated himself all his life.  His trouble began as soon as he was born.  His mother was involved in adulterous relationship and gave birth to him.  Discovering that the boy wasn’t his own, the husband always hated the boy, although he never divorced his wife.  As the boy was growing up, his stepfather would abuse him both verbally and emotionally everyday by calling him “You carry the dirty blood in you, you son of a bitch!”  All his life, the man desired to replace his “dirty” blood if possible.  He actually did when he met the Lord Jesus.  He replaced his dirty blood with Christ’ blood and replaced his old master with the new one.  He had a complete transformation and became a new creation in Christ.  E.g. 2.  Imagine at the center of your heart, there’s a throne: whoever sits on it calls the shots in your life.  When Christ sits on the throne, and you listen to Him, everything is in order.  When your old self sits on the throne, and Christ serves as a “Genie in a bottle,” everything in your life is in chaos.
  • Closing: Who makes a person a new creation?  Christ.  There’s no other way for you to become a new creation but being in Christ.  You must deny yourself.  Your old self must be crucified.  If your old self is still alive and kicking, you are not “in Christ,” then Galatians 2:20 doesn’t mean anything to you.  2 Corinthians 5:17 doesn’t apply to you, either.  If your old self is still alive and kicking, you still serve the old master, you.
  • If you want a new life, listen to what Jesus is saying: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.  Your old self, your old master, must pass away so that a new master may arrive.  It is only possible in Christ.  There’s no other way.  Amen.

 

 

Today Pastor Choi concludes his mini-sermon series on basic Christian beliefs: in today’s sermon he talks about what it means to be a child of God, believing and receiving Christ, and having daily communion with Christ.

What We Believe (4)

 

 

Following is his sermon script in its entirety:

What We Believe (4)                                                    John 1:12, Revelation 3:20

 

  • John 1:12 (NRSV: New Revised Standard Version)
  • 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,

 

Revelation 3:20 (NRSV)

  • 20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.

 

Recap

  • Jesus came to call the sinners to repentance.  He didn’t come for those who consider themselves righteous enough that they don’t need a Savior.
  • We cannot earn our salvation no matter how hard we try.  Salvation is a gift of God, given to us absolutely free, by God’s grace.  We receive God’s salvation through our faith alone.
  • Faith and works are inseparable. Faith goes first, works follow. Faith is the only thing required for salvation.  Works is not.  What is works, then?  It is not the condition for salvation but the fruit of our faith. We are called to demonstrate our faith through good works not to gain salvation but to bring glory to God and His name.

Child of God

  • One of the misused phrases among people today (both in the church and outside the church) is: child of God.  Without a proper understanding of the Scriptures, we tend to say that everyone is a child of God.  Sounds wonderful and very inclusive.  Yet, if you listen to what God’s Word says, it is a quite different story.  The Bible is very clear on this: Not everyone is a child of God. In fact, God doesn’t mind calling some folks children of wrath, children of darkness, and even children of the devil (1 John 3:10).  E.g. Jesus called some Pharisees children of the devil (John 8:39, 44).
  • Yes, everyone is created in the image of God, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is a child of God. God loves them all, He’s gracious to all even to the evil ones (by giving them life, health, and etc.), and He wants everyone to come to repentance, yet when it comes down to who’s a child of God, God is very peculiar.
  • Who are the children of God?  Only those who are born into God’s family through faith.  Born again, born anew, and born from above mean the same of spiritual rebirth.  Only those who satisfy the condition of spiritual rebirth in Christ are His children.  E.g. I love children, however, that doesn’t mean that every child in the world is mine.  Only the one that was born into my family through either natural birth or adoption is my child.  Same with God and His children.  Becoming children of God requires birth into God’s family.
  • So, how can one be born into God’s family?  By believing in Jesus and by receiving Him as Savior and Lord.  Only those who believe in the name of Jesus and what He has done for humanity (John 1:12) and only those who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord become God’s children.

Believing and Receiving

  • Let’s talk about believing and receiving business.  To believe in Jesus means to receive Him as the Lord and Savior.  They are one thing.  Two are the same.  Yet, not everyone does believe/practice so.  In fact, some believers think and treat believing and receiving as two separate things.  In other words, they intellectually agree what Jesus has done (that is believing), yet in real life, they take Jesus not as Lord and Savior but rather as a servant or even an insurance policy (this is receiving).
  • E.g. Calling Jesus Lord (intellectual agreement) yet not doing what He commands (not taking Him seriously): 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
  • E.g.2. Charles Blondin–a French acrobat walking on a tight rope over Niagara Falls.   —-“crossing the Niagara Gorge (located on the American-Canadian border) on a tightrope, 1,100 ft (340 m) long, 3.25 in (8.3 cm) in diameter and 160 ft (49 m) above the water, near the location of the current Rainbow Bridge. This he did on 30 June 1859, and a number of times thereafter, always with different theatrical variations: blindfolded, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow, on stilts, carrying a man (his manager, Harry Colcord) on his back, sitting down midway while he cooked and ate an omelet and standing on a chair with only one chair leg on the rope.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Blondin
  • Story goes on when the acrobat asked if anyone was willing to ride in the wheelbarrow, no one wanted to take a chance.

Dine with Jesus

  • Imagine: Jesus standing at the door and knocks.  We hear His voice and open the door.
  • He’s still knocking:  Do you hear His voice?  Not many of us hear His quiet voice speaking to us.  Why?  Because, there are too many distractions and too much noise going on in our lives that drown Christ’s voice.  We need a routine for your soul to catch Christ’s calling.  E.g. Worship on Sunday mornings is a good start.  E.g. 2.  Spend time with God’s word and in prayer (15 minutes a day means 1/100th of time given to Jesus).
  • If anyone: everyone is invited to salvation.  No exception.  No discrimination against any personal background.  Jesus knocks at everyone’s heart.  God invites them all.
  • Opens the door is to ask Him in.  If you invite Him in, He will come in.  If you don’t invite Him in, He will not come into your life.  Jesus is very gentle and mild.  He is so polite that He never forces us to do anything that we don’t wish to do.
  • Once you invite Him in, He comes in and dines with you:  Dining with Him means to commune with Him.  It means a close relationship with Him.  It means to talk to Him, listen to Him, and to walk with Him.
  • Communion with Him is a daily thing: not weekly, not monthly, not even yearly thing.  Yet, to some of us, it’s been years since we talked with Him.  Having Jesus in our heart and yet never talking to Him is like inviting a guest to dinner; once the guest is seated at the table, you never talk to him/her and never pay attention to the guest.  Worse, you even don’t know that the guest is still there.  It is time to restart our communication with Jesus.  Every day.  More than once a day.
  • You will never be disappointed.
  • Once the salvation is given, it is not taken away from us, unless we ask God to do so.  You have eternal life in Christ.  John 5:24: 24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life (NRSV).  Amen.

 

Pastor Choi explains that no human merits can buy or earn God’s gift–salvation.  We are saved by God’s grace through our faith alone.

 

  What We Believe (3)

 

Following is the sermon script in its entirety:

What We Believe (3)                            Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5

 

  • Ephesians 2:8-9
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
  • Titus 3:5
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  • he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Recap:

  • Repentance is the beginning of our relationship with God.
  • All have sinned and need salvation.
  • Definition of sin: violation of any God’s commandments.
  • Wages (consequences) of our sin were paid by Christ that proves God’s love for us.

Saved not by works but by faith:

  • We are saved through Christ’s merits not by our own.  Let me tell you a story of a man whose name was Martin Luther: He hoped that his act of penance (through climbing stairs on his bare knees) would count something in his salvation.  Later he realized that that’s not the case.  He also said that the practice of buying indulgences for loved ones in purgatory was unscriptural.  He declared that salvation is not earned by his good deeds, in fact, by any human good deeds. Nor can it be bought with money.  Salvation is, rather, a gift of God attainable only through faith not through our works.  It is our faith in Christ, not our own good deeds that counts in our salvation.  “Luther wrote to Melanchthon on the same theme: “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides.”(Martin Luther, “Let Your Sins Be Strong,” a Letter From Luther to Melanchthon, August 1521, Project Wittenberg, retrieved 1 October 2006).
  • Indeed, that’s what the Bible says: we are saved by God’s mercy and grace not by our own deeds.
  • What about James, then, some might argue, who says that faith without works is dead? (James 2:26) If faith is all we need in our salvation, then, we don’t have to be good, right?  No, you still ought to be good and will be, not for the salvation but for the glory of God. The fact that we don’t need human works or good deeds for our salvation, or the truth that human merits is not the necessary condition for our salvation, doesn’t mean that we are exempt from living a moral life.  Let me repeat what I have said: works don’t get us into heaven; they are not the necessary condition for salvation, either.  What are they, then?  They are a result of our faith and a fruit of our salvation.  E.g. Horse and a cart: they go together, yet, you always put the horse before the cart, not the other way around.  The horse here is faith and the cart is works.  Faith goes first, and works follow.  Anyone who claims to be a believer in Christ will demonstrate good works as a fruit of his/her faith.   In other words, God only requires us to bring faith into salvation, yet He expects us to live out our faith through our good works to bring glory to His name.
  • When it comes down to salvation, I am so glad that God doesn’t require us to bring any human merits to the salvation table.  Any human merits such as education (B.A.), money (million dollars), physical condition (6 foot tall), beauty, age, race, sex, can never buy salvation.  We can’t fully satisfy any of them, either.  So, God came up with another perfect solution: faith that believes in Jesus and what He has done on the cross.  In my humble opinion, that’s the perfect and the fairest solution for all to satisfy in salvation.  E.g. A street vendor who accepted Christ.  E.g. 2. Criminal crucified at the same time with Christ.

Created for Good Works

  • So, do we still have to be good even after we believe?  Yes, we still need to live the moral life.  We are the children of God, created for good works in Christ (Ephesians 2:10).  We are the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13, 14).  We are the children of light.  We are to demonstrate how great our God is through our good deeds (Matthew 5:16).  Works are not the condition for salvation but they are the demonstration of your faith in Jesus (E.g. helping the homeless, helping Sandy relief).

Closing:

  • Freedom from God’s punishment cannot be purchased with money.  God’s grace cannot be earned.  No one is justified with his/her own works and merits.  Salvation is by God’s grace through faith alone.
  •   For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
  • he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy” (Titus 3:5).
  • Amen.

 

Pastor Choi continues his series on basic beliefs of Christian faith: Christ paid the penalty of our sins–this proves God’s love for us all!

  What We Believe (2)

 

Also, following is the sermon script in its entirety.

Title: What We Believe (2)

Scripture Lessons:

Romans 6:23

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:8

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

 

 

Consequences:

Imagine this: you want to hang a nice picture on the wall.  You need a tool to do that.  So, you bring in a hammer and a nail.  You choose a spot that seems perfect for the picture.  You put the nail in and hang the picture frame.  When you are done, you step back to see if it looks alright.  Then, you realize that you made a mistake.  It was hung too low and too far to the right.  You need to move the picture up a little bit and about a foot to the left.  Well, what you do?  You need to pull the nail out, right?  When you do, there’s a hole on the wall now.  You made the hole on the wall. You realize that next time, you want to measure twice before you start hammering.

If the hammering of the nail on the wall is the act of sin, then the hole, the nail mark on the wall, is the consequences of our sin.  We regret what we’ve done and later pull the nail out, yet there is still the mark on the wall.  We live with the consequences of our sin.  We reap what we sow.  We cannot harvest corn from soy beans.  We harvest soy beans only if we planted soy beans.  We harvest corn only when we planted corn.  We reap what we sow.  That’s a spiritual law.

Wages of sin:

Same with the sin: When we commit a sin either against God or against people, we always harvest the consequences of our iniquities.

Recap of sin: anything that violates any of God’s commandments either against God or against people.

There are always consequences of our sin.  The Bible calls the consequences of sin the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). And, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  In fact, the same Bible explains that’s how the physical death came into our lives after our forefathers have sinned against God.  E.g. Adam and Eve’s disobedience—eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, not apple.

Some of us wonder how and when we pay the wages of our sin.  The Bible says that we pay the wages of sin when we die (Heb. 9:27) Hebrews 9:27 “And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment”(NRSV)

God of Justice and God of Mercy:

Let’s face it.  It is we who made a bad choice to sin, and therefore, it is we who should pay the wages of sin through our own death.  However, our God, the God of love, loves us so much that He wanted to spare us from the judgment.  So, He came up with a solution for our sin problems.  Particularly, the end result, the consequences of sin, and the wages of sin: who’s going to pay for the wages of sin.

His plan: let someone else take care of that so that we may go free.  And, who was that individual of God’s choice?  It was Jesus known as the Christ or the Messiah.  E.g. story of a king and his son who had a bad habit of stealing.  Even though everyone else in the palace knew about it, none dared to tell the king.  One day, the prince was caught again red-handed by one of the king’s servants.  This time it was different, though.  The servant was a new hire but a man of integrity and he wanted to stop this problem.  So, he reported to the king.  Soon the prince was summoned.  The king asked his son if it was true that he stole someone’s property.  The prince said yes.  The dilemma king faced was: to uphold the law and to spare the prince.  Then, the king ordered the executioner to bring in the sword to cut the hand of the perpetrator (it was the law of the kingdom)…..  In the end, to make the long story short, the king both kept the law and saved the perpetrator.

Same way, it was God’s solution for the wages of our sin: let the sinless pay the wages of sin for the sinful once and for all.  That’s why Christ went to the cross.  To pay the wages of our sins.  Then, the God of justice kept His law and the God of love also saved us from eternal punishment.

Shadows in the Old Testament:

In fact, the Old Testament already gives away plenty hints of how God was going to save the humanity from their sins.  For instance, Isaiah 53, the chapter known as suffering servant chapter, which prophesied on what the Messiah was going to do.  Also, Leviticus shows the shadow of what Christ Jesus would do for us.  E.g.  In the Old Testament times, when people sinned against God and against people, they would bring a sin offering to the priest– animal without blemish for their sins committed.  Then, the priest declares the forgiveness of sins by the death of the innocent lamb.

Jesus the Lamb of God:

Did you know that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? (John the Baptist—John 1:29)

By sending His own son Jesus to the cross to pay the wages of sin on our behalf, God demonstrated His love for us.  Christ’s death on the cross paid the wages of our sin once and for all, forever and ever, and we go free of punishment.

I would call such act of God, that is, to let His son die on the cross on our behalf the greatest mystery of all.  God’s love saves us despite all we have done.  On the cross, in Christ, God’s justice and God’s mercy were fully fulfilled.  We are spared from the wages of sin.  I would call such love: Amazing.  Marvelous.  Awesome.

I will continue next Sunday.

Let us pray.

 

 

Pastor Choi explains the spiritual reality of America where people shun certain words such as sin, sinner, or repentance.  To hear his message in audio, click here:

     What We Believe

 

Pastor Choi talks about who Jesus is to people, to His disciples, and to you.  Your confession of who Jesus is makes a world of difference in your walk with God.

Who do you say Jesus is?

Pastor Choi’s first sermon at Manahawkin UMC talks about who he is:
Not a Messiah, but a messenger of God and His Word.

Each month we offer a new member class entitled “Methodism 101” on the third Sunday of the month at 9:45 a.m. (see church calendar for any changes due to holidays).

This class is an overview of the origins of The United Methodist Church, an introduction to our local church and a general discussion time.

If interested in attending simply stop in.  All are welcome.

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Sunday school students of the Manahawkin United Methodist Church help fight the spread of Meningitis in Africa.  Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.  Though rarely seen here in the United States, Meningitis is ravaging the child population in sub-Saharan Africa.  Each year thousands of children die from this disease and approximately 10 to 20 percent of survivors are left with permanent aftereffects such as mental retardation, deafness, epilepsy, or other neurological disorders.

The World Health Organization in partnership with PATH created the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP).  The mission of the MVP is to eliminate meningitis as a public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa through the development, testing, introduction, and widespread use of conjugate meningococcal vaccines.  From this partnership MenAfriVac™ was created, a vaccine to be delivered to the children in Africa.  The cost of each vaccine is around fifty cents.  It is projected that MenAfriVac™,  in sub-Saharan Africa use could prevent more than 1 million new cases of Meningitis.

Motivated by the prospects of saving lives, the students committed to try and raise $200 to donate to MVP.  Penny by penny students added to the collection.  Some students performed extra chores to gather funds, others created and sold artwork for their donation and some emptied their piggy banks.  Within three months the students raised $498, well over doubling their goal!  This donation provided just under 1000 vaccines.

For more information on MVP and how you can donate go to www.meningvax.org.

For those interested in receiving prayer from our Prayer Group please fill out our online form.

Prayer requests can be submitted during Sunday Worship as well.  Prayer Request cards are located on the back of each  pew and collected by the Ushers.

 

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