September 17th, 2017
ICA Sunday Pulpit Message
It’s such a blessing to be here and have worship with you all. Honestly, I’m not too familiar with the church and the circumstances of Austin, so I don’t know how much you can connect with this message. Despite that, it is God who is giving this sermon, so if you listen to this message as the voice of God, you may find it alive and active in your daily life. I first learned of the Gospel when I entered high school. That’s when I first started the Upper Room movement. At that time, however, my family was not in favorable circumstances. We were a family of nonbelievers, and I am the youngest of eight children. My parents, who were farmers in the country side, were getting old. My father, in particular, had many problems; he was addicted to alcohol and abused my mother, so my family wasn’t a very happy one. We were infested with problems. Inside of that though, God allowed me to hear the Gospel. Because of that, I thought I was able to have a stronger walk of faith through my high school years. I wanted to hide my family from others and tried hard in everything I did so that I could be acknowledged by people from the outside. Because I worked so diligently, I was able to attend a seminary school in Pusan, which was far away from home. Every time I was on the phone with my parents, I never received good news from them. Because of that, my heart always felt heavy, and I never knew true joy. On the outside, I felt accomplished because I received religious training, diligently attended church and was a seminary theology student. However, my resentment towards my father was too great. I would hear from my friends how unfortunate accidents would happen to their fathers, yet no such accidents happened to my own. He would harass my mother and abuse his children. That’s why every time I was on the phone, my mom was constantly crying and complaining about the hardships they had to face, and none of her children could help. This was the situation that I was in. Though I would not express it, I was in a troubled state for the majority of my life. I always asked why God made me a part of this kind of family, gave me this hateful father and powerless mother. My mother actually doesn’t know how to read Korean because she just worked all her life. Nowadays, if there are severe disagreements between a married couple, they can just divorce. My mom, however, who already have had eight children, thought she couldn’t go anywhere. So every time I went to early morning prayer time, it wasn’t praying to God; it was more like resenting in front of God. No matter how much training I received in my earlier years, I was always filled with frustration and anger. At that time, my school had a program to send students on a short term mission trip to India, and because I was very short on money and could barely pay tuition, I didn’t even dream of going on this trip. The seniors in my class, sensing how I very much wanted to attend, graciously pitched in to fund my trip. So about 20 days, we went to India for the short-term mission trip. About that time, one of our seniors at school was stationed as a missionary in India. So we traveled along with him around the northern parts of India to have missionary and evangelism camps. That was already 21 years ago, and that was the first time I saw such poverty and mal-conditioned states. The people there don’t have houses; they live in these thinly constructed shacks. When I looked into the eyes of the children, I couldn’t find any hope in them. And there was a class system that these people of India followed that categorized every person into hierarchical groups, and because of these divides, they had no hope. It was quite a pitiful situation. What’s more pitiful though was, in each region, they have their own well-constructed Hindu temples, and they worshipped so many different gods. When we went to each that, that was the field that we saw. For the first time, I was able to feel the heart of God in my own. That was the first time I was able to see God’s perspective, see what He was seeing with His eyes. I could never forget that time; I cried a lot. I realized how twisted my heart was before this moment. I used to always complain that I was the most unfortunate person in the world when, in actuality, I was receiving one of the greatest gifts from God. The fact that I was able to live with my parents itself was a blessing. That was when God completely overturned my mind and perspective. After I returned from the trip, I was amazed to find that all of my complaints, all of the inferiority I felt towards my family suddenly disappeared. Shockingly, I came to forgive my dad. I started to see the soul behind my dad, and I started to pray for him. Though it was a long period of time after this, my father knelt down and accepted God into his heart—the day right before my wedding, actually. That was the start of evangelization in my family. The problem wasn’t with my family, the problem lied within me. If our hearts are filled with incorrect motives, then no matter how diligently we live our walk of faith, it’s never going to work out. If our hearts are filled with greed, then it’s going to blind you from the things you need to see.
I will try to explain our greed through the situation of the churches in Korea. I have a lot of respect for a lot of pastors—not solely within our denomination, but outside of our denomination as well. In Incheon, there’s a very large church of over 15,000 members. The pastor of the church held his ministry for 32 years. When I was a student in theology school, this pastor was the author of the book we studied. I remember reading that book and being very moved because he wasn’t simply living in ministry, he showed an abundance of love and compassion towards the poor and marginalized people in the area. Many people respected that pastor, so I visited the church twice. The first time I visited, I noticed that the church was very graceful—not in the sense that the structure was very righteous and well-maintained; the people themselves, you can tell, were receiving grace. Seeing this, I felt that I received grace, too. A long time has passed since then. Last year, I saw a news article that was published online and it featured that pastor’s name. It said that the pastor was fighting with the church members and that he even hired a lawyer to go to court due to this disagreement. I couldn’t believe it, so I went back to the church to see what was going on. When I did arrive, I found some shocking news: the pastor retired from the church, and the church prepared him a retirement allowance. However, he refused to take the money because he claimed that it was not enough, that he deserved more after all the work that he put into the church, and when the church refused the new larger sum of money, the pastor took this issue to court. In the end, the pastor won the lawsuit and received the sum of money. When I went back home, I felt this fear in my heart. The ministry that the pastor built for 32 years, the respect that he received through all the years disappeared in an instant due to his greed. If it wasn’t for this greed that consumed his heart, he would have been remembered as a respected pastor for the rest of his life. Since then, I’ve prayed as written in Proverbs 30:7-9. “Two things I ask of you, Lord: do not refuse me before I die: keep falsehood and lies far from me. Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
On our walk of faith, we are to face Jesus. But if greed comes into play, we cannot face Jesus; we lose sight of the path. Sometimes, in the midst of all this, we might think we don’t even need Jesus, especially if we’ve gone through a lot of success. Is this not representative of the pastor? In church, an elder who shed tears and knelt down to pray received God’s grace through a great business deal, and he never looked back to Jesus. What can be concluded from this? I believe that business deal was a curse because it led to the loss of grace in the elder. Mark 2:18-20 tells us this: “Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, ‘How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?’ Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.” How comical it is when you walk a faith without Jesus. This, however, happens much too often in real life. Everybody in this verse fasted, particularly the Pharisees, who fasted twice a week, but they didn’t even know why they were fasting, for what reason were they fasting. Of course, fasting is an important means of prayer. There’s nothing that better helps fuel pure spirit and concentration during prayer than praying on an empty stomach. But the fasting that the Pharisees took part in had nothing to do with Jesus; they fasted simply because they believed it was the “holy” thing to do. It eventually was used as a tool to judge others who did not fast. This is a danger that we must be aware of; we should not brag about our evangelical accomplishments and shun the people who have not done as much as you. If fasting has nothing to do with Jesus, it is meaningless. Jesus must be the center of our faith. He is the Lord of our lives, but people live a walk of faith that puts him on the sidelines, yet they believe that what they’re doing is correct. Do you know what Jesus said to the Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew? “Everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, can I not enter the kingdom of Heaven at all?’: I have never seen you praying while fasting. I have never heard your voices.” The walk of faith is never for your own satisfaction.
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Religious Reformation. The Early Church had Jesus as their center and, as a result, received many blessings. As they became more fruitful, they started to stray away from Jesus. Eventually, Jesus was completely absent from the church. This was what happened with the Middle Age churches. They were so caught up in the motions of their walk of faith that they forgot what the actual purpose was for all their actions. They became so distant from Jesus, and to restore the intimate relationship everyone had with Christ, the Reformation was born. For over a hundred years, there were wars to redeem Jesus back into the Gospel. There were many people who were sacrificed, and there were many people who suffered to find Jesus once again. However, the pain they endured was, indeed, another valid part of the walk of faith. We must hold onto the purpose of the walk of faith in order to see Jesus again. We must all return back to Jesus.
Mark 2:21 states: “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.” What does it mean to be unshrunk cloth? It’s a new piece of cloth that hasn’t been touched; it represents purity. Basically, you don’t take a new piece of cloth and attach it to an old piece of cloth, otherwise neither piece can be used. The new piece of cloth is Jesus, and the old piece of cloth is us, stuck in our old walk of faith. If we hold onto our old ways, our old traditions, we cannot see Jesus. Therefore, we need to be aware that at times, because of our actions, we are separated from Jesus. In the beginning, the Pharisees may have started to fast because they were waiting for the Messiah, because they were earnestly waiting for salvation, but as time passed by, that purpose faded away. My heart is like the old piece of cloth. It is filled with selfish thoughts. I always say that I can handle my ministry being taken away from me, but if that actually happened in real life, I don’t think I can endure it. I retired from my old church four years ago and pioneered my own church. I let go of many things back then: I retired from the RGS that I was serving, I retired from the remnant ministry that I partook in. I submitted all my resignation forms for these programs as if they didn’t mean anything to me. However, I felt so empty and unclothed afterwards. I felt very lonely. I wondered what was I thankful for before, and what should I be thankful for now? I realized that instead of being only Jesus, I was hanging on to all the answers that I received in the past. I believe that pioneering my own church was the right decision to make because now, it truly is only Jesus Christ for me. That’s how I was able to understand that this was what Jesus meant when he said to deny ourselves and come only for the cross.
Jesus explains this further in Mark 2:22: “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” Wine in Israel is like kimchi in Korea; seasonally, these two items are made for the entire year. Let’s say you make the new year’s kimchi. Would you put this new kimchi in the old kimchi containers? No, you would put them in new containers. Likewise, in Israel, any new wine they make is put into new wineskins. This new wine represents our hearts. It is God who has selected us, and it is God who sent Jesus to us. We are beings who do not have any power. We are people who are meant to live in our old ways like the old wine and old skins. Despite this, Jesus came and made us into new wine. Even though we would like to revert back to the old wine and old skin, it is not possible. We need to discard our old ways and embrace the new life that Jesus had provided for us. For you to believe in Jesus, you have to first realize that you’re a sinner, that you’re this old garment, that you cannot live without Jesus, and without that heart of humbleness you cannot meet him. Only after you acknowledge this can you finally see Jesus.
What kind of blessings receive blessings? When we think of people who are blessed, some people like to assume that if you pray for a certain blessing, then you will receive it. You’re living in a life that has nothing to do with those blessings, yet you believe that if you ask, you will always receive. If you’re living a life that is worthy of blessings, then you will receive it. If you live in an environment that is worthy of being blessed, then you will be blessed. So if you’re always in the darkness, then you need to try to come to the light, and it’s for that reason why people need to fast. Living the walk of faith is not about being legalistic, about adhering to strict laws and protocol. Living and serving Jesus, that is your walk of faith. Are you really living your walk of faith? Many think that if you come to church and do prayer journal, that’s enough, and that’s all you need to do for the walk of faith. But the rest of the day, you live the way you want. That’s not what it means to believe in Jesus. That’s just living a religious life. Everyone, are you serving Jesus who is inside of you? Can you see him? Can you feel his heart? Living your walk of faith is not living it however you want. It means that you are serving Jesus and that he’s dwelling inside of you, and because he lives inside you, you start to resemble his life, his heart, and his actions. You need to become servants of Jesus. You need to embrace that you will become anew. Habakkuk 2:4 states: “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” If your heart is filled with pride, disbelief, or even things that you obsess over, then Jesus cannot enter your heart. Even when you are hearing and writing this message right now, there are times when you are not receiving the message. Because we are so rooted in our old “walk of faith”, it has become a habit for us, and it becomes difficult to come anew. Being rooted in something is good, but the thing that you are rooted in is bad.
Every week, the pastor gives a pulpit message, and everyone will read the verses and meditate on the Word. Do you receive new grace every time? Do you hear the voice of God? Or let’s say that there’s a person you really dislike; it is normal to feel dislike towards another person. We cannot see eye to eye with every person in the world. However, to make decisions with that hatred in your heart will not get you anywhere; you must look into their souls, their hearts, pray for them and pray that God will work through them. That is how Jesus worked his ministry. The Pharisees were so caught up in their religious life that they fasted and condemned others. They could not look around and see the hearts of the prostitutes, the orphans, the widows, the tax collectors, and the sick around them. What is real strength? The answer lies in the mind, in the heart. We all think that it is financial strength that will enable evangelization. Some remnants tell me that they want evangelization to happen in their family, so in order to that, they will work hard to succeed and make money. They believe that if this is done, then their parents will come to believe. However, this type of thinking is completely wrong. People think that you must further these programs to be successful, that you need a lot of skills and material items to be victorious, but that’s not true.
A person who has God’s grace in their hearts, a person who has realized the mercy in God’s heart, a person who has the same heart as Jesus and can cry out for others’ souls, that kind of person will have their family blessed. And if that type of person is attending church, that church is meant to be blessed. If a student has the same heart of God, the school they attend will be blessed. That’s the strength of your mind, the strength of your heart. But people take it so easily and use it for things other than Jesus. Satan doesn’t attack our physical bodies. He’s much more intelligent than that and realizes the strength of our hearts. That’s why he attacks our hearts, not our physical forms. Then what is sin? Sin does not attack our lives. We are the ones attacking our own hearts. That’s why we must look into our hearts with the Word of God when selfishness and obsession rules our thoughts. We have to meditate. Is Jesus really residing in you? Moses prayed: “I always serve the Lord in front of me.” David prayed every morning: “On this morning, I look towards the face of the Lord.” Paul prayed: “Every time I come before you, God, I come as a sinner. I come as a person of no power, so God, please give me new grace on this new day.” Living the walk of faith is not through your actions but through your heart. Only when those deeds are coming from your heart will God be pleased. Everyone, I pray that you will receive these blessings. Philippians 2:5 states: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” May you embrace this heart because this heart is the heart of Jesus. If you look at 2 Chronicles 7:14, it states: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves down and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” It means that if you come before God, God will do the rest. It is He who will heal our families. It is He who works in our fields. Our sins that happen in our lives, our lifestyles that we try to fix on our own, it’s God who fixes all that. If you accept him as the Lord of your life, then your life will change. If you embrace Jesus in your heart, then you will experience the work of transformation. That’s why we live the walk of faith. I bless you in the name of Jesus Christ that you will be able to take in Jesus, follow Jesus, and receive the blessings of God.
Let us pray.
We say that we live our walk of faith, but there are so many times where we lose hold of Jesus, and we forget where this heart will go towards. That’s why we pray that, every day, we will become new cloth that serves Jesus. We need to realize that living a walk of faith means that we will be taking care of the souls of others. That’s what it means to have the heart of Jesus.