August 14th, 2016
ICA Sunday Pulpit Message
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (Rom 8:31-39)
Dear Lord, please help us while we listen to your Word. With your love and grace, may we receive strength from the message. Through your spirit, may we accept your time to bless us. In Jesus Christ name we pray, Amen.
There was a priest in the Middle Ages named Martin Luther. He said that only those with faith will be saved. In Romans 1:17, there was a vital word of God about faith. “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith.” The Gospel is the good news. The content of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ was crucified and atoned for our sins. Then, He resurrected and gave us the way to live. In this Gospel, we have God’s righteousness. It means that we can only receive this blessing through the Gospel. Man needs to be based only on faith. Martin Luther was a son of strict father. He wanted Martin to become a lawyer. Because his father was a peasant, he didn’t want Martin to go through hardships, so he wanted him to be a lawyer. His father was a typical German so he raised Martin in a strict manner. His father made him think that God was strict. At that time, the Catholic Church told people that you could receive salvation through laws. There were steps that you had to crawl up with your knees for repentance and salvation. It was to the point where your knees would get cut and bruised. That’s how they would atone for their sins, with physical pain. Even with that process, Luther didn’t feel righteous. He still felt like a sinner. He was scared of God. He realized how peaceful he could be when he realized the Gospel. That realization became the foundation of the religious reformation. He cried and shout out to the Catholic people. He proclaimed that salvation is only by faith. That action was a challenge towards the Catholic Church, which was corrupt. He was challenging the Catholic laws. He only wanted to proclaim salvation through faith. He was sentenced to death by fire. He became a fugitive. He was excommunicated from the Church. However, Frederick the Elector of Saxony rescued Luther and hid him in his castle. He did 2 things while hiding away. He translated the Bible from Latin to German so that the common people can read it. At the time, the Catholic Church worshipped in Latin at the time. They did so to belittle the common people. Most Germans don’t even know what the priests were talking about. They couldn’t even read the Bible. It was a revolutionary action. The second thing he did was compose hymnals. The title was, “A Mighty Fortress is our God”. It’s 384. “God’s fortress is our shield and sword. The demon is our old enemy and is still using his power. He schemes. Who can overcome him?” Even though he received a lot of persecution, he still believed in God’s might fortress and endure. How can we overcome the demon? Even so, despite all that, our Lord will become our Mighty Fortress. Paul spoke with this assurance. “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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?” Satan attacks us in the ways of blame and criticism. Even though we are lacking and we have so many impure aspects, we are still chosen by God. Who can dare to condemn us? When someone tries to condemn us, we need to remember that Christ was sent to save us. He is calling us His righteousness. We may receive prosecution. Paul talks about his assurance that we can overcome any chaos. He said that we are more than conquerors. We can overcome them with ease. We can easily win. The life of a Christian is complete victory. Do not fear! God loves you. You will have complete victory. Who shall separate us form the love of Christ? As I was reading this, Paul listed so many things, he was overcome. It’s not 1 or 2 things. Paul was a weak human. Even Paul can feel difficulty in his life. But, he had assurance to be able to overcome anything within the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The last thing he said was about the power of the devil. The fear comes from being a loser. However, do not fear because God is your mighty fortress. There is a song called, “We shall overcome”. We’ll be more than the conquerors. He gave us His love through salvation.
1. The greatest reason why he had the assurance of victory was because he trusted in God’s love. In John 3:16, it talks about how God loves us. You have it memorized right. If you could just know 1 verse, this would be it. As soon as this missionary arrived in Korea, he passed away. His Bible was destroyed and burned, but there was 1 page still remaining. It had John 3:16. It arrived in Korea. Some people through that this missionary failed. There was this person in Korea who read John 3:16 and became a believer who believed in Jesus. It summarizes the essence of the Bible. The most important thing of John 3:16 was that. “For God so loved the world. He gave His only son. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life”. There was a boy who asked a question to his Sunday school teacher. He asked his teacher how much God loves us. This teacher opened his arms wide. That’s how he was crucified on the cross. He sacrificed himself for us. Jesus is the son of God. He is the great being who is the son of God and the king of all kings. He sacrificed us to show us love and save us. God’s greatest love is how He sacrificed His son. There was an airplane incident, and most of the people perished. However, there was a baby crying. The baby was the only survivor. A mother’s love sacrifices for the child. Love can be painful. Through that painful love, Jesus saved us. Even Jesus Himself was in pain. The one thing that he said was, “My God, why have you forsaken me”. It is to save us from sin and death. It’s to heal the sick people and to give them the life of salvation. In Isaiah 53:5, it talks about how He was wounded for our transgression and crushed for our inequities. With that, we were healed. We have been healed. We are able to have victory in our lives.
2. Secondly, His love is unchanging. When the Israelites were going through Exodus, they were saying that they received God’s guidance. This was about God’s unfailing love. His love does not change nor fail. The reason why we cannot fail is because God’s love is unfailing. Sometimes, we like to think that we may not be perfect but how far can God guide us. He has eternal love toward us. It is unfailing. God will never make us fail. Through this unfailing love, Paul made a confession in 2 Timothy 1:12. “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” There was a boy with his mother. They had to go through a crowd. This child was holding onto the mother, but was losing strength and lost ahold of her. He thought that he would lose his mother. But the mother was holding onto the child very firmly. They were crossing this path. God’s hand is stronger so He will hold us. There is this saying that once you start, you will see the end. Therefore, God will hold our hands and guide us. Paul said in Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” He wrote this while in prison. He gave us assurance that we were saved through His grace. He will protect you until the end. I would like to explain the word, Remnant. It is explained in Isaiah 6:13. “And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land." Israel was captive by Babylon. They were being treated like a cut off tree. During that time, Isaiah received the message of remnant. Behind our house, there is a cut off tree. It is a stump. I had to cut it off. From the stump, it will bear fruit. Just like this stump, when the remnants have a crisis, you will grow as long as you have the roots. Just like the message that was given to the Israelites, you have to be rooted. If you remain like a stump, you will blossom flowers in your life. There are 3 ways to teach God’s truth. He gives revelations through our conscious, nature and through the Word of God. We can see suffering from a cut off tree, but you can also see resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, it talks about resurrection. “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” It may be difficult to overcome chaos by yourself. But you will be raised, like the Remnants. In California, there is a park called Sequoia National Park. The trees grow really high and have a lot of flowers and fruits. A biologists was studying how much energy would be required to carry even 1 drop of water up to the highest point. It takes 12 horsepower. That’s the power of the Remnant. It doesn’t look special, but with patience, we can have God’s work take place. Therefore, those who share the work of the Gospel will not be discouraged. They will gain victory with the grace of God. I want to give a testimony about my missionary work. Next year will be my 40-year anniversary. In 1977, my wife and I were commanded to go to missions based on Acts 1:8. So we came to America. I was doing youth adult ministry in Seoul. My wife and I were being sent to Chicago and we did God’s work at a local university. We weren’t really welcome at first. At that time, Korea was underdeveloped. Our skin is yellow and we had limited English. In 1992, we were appointed by the American Southern Baptist Missions to do military missions. For 2 decades, God was with us. For 39 years, God was pouring down blessings to where we did missions. Then, we met the Darakbang missionary community. When God guides me, we will continue to belong to the Southern Baptist Missionary and I will cooperate with Darakbang. I give thanks and glory that God is our protector and our almighty fortress. The reason why I shared my testimony was to have assurance of victory. We still have victory because God is with us. God will make us have a victorious life.
3. We can have this assurance because a living God answers our prayers. In Isaiah 38, it talks about King Hezekiah. He was about to die, so he had no one to rely on. Even though he was a king, he couldn’t do anything. “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, "Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” Please read this chapter in your spare time. He was told that he would die of a severe disease. His prayer was so painful that he was weeping like a bird. Have you had a desperate moment in your life? He was weeping like a bird. In AD 70, the Israelites lost their country. For 19 centuries, they got their country back. If you look at their history, you could see how painful it was. They were weeping about their pain. He heard the good news through the prophet Isaiah. He said that he heard his prayers and would extend his life. Even though we are facing a wall, God will answer our prayers. The 2nd work that he did was moving the sun. They counted time based on the amount of shadow reflected. The sun comes from the east to the west. At that time, the sun was rising from the west. He made the sun rise from the west. God adjusted the time. Even though King Hezekiah was affected, God can adjust it. God adjusted the beings of life. God could do it. Even if we are in the midst of desperation, God makes adjustment, He will give salvation. Therefore, even though we face despair, if we believe in God, He will give miracles. In Psalm 121:1-2, “I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” When we lift our heads, we shouldn’t lift it down. We must look toward God. God can help us. He is the one who had unfailing love towards us. He will make it possible. Even in the midst of despair, we will have hope. God will give us hope and life. Even if we are going through dark tunnels, we will see a bright sky. He is with us. Because of our great God in Christ, He will give us an abundant victory. Let us read Romans 8:38-39. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” May you have victory. We are more than conquerors.
Dear Almighty God, thank you for protecting us with your power. Thank you for letting us overcome trials with your power. I pray that as Remnants, may we be able to grow as Remnants. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.