“Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. 9So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.” (Gen 12:7-9, NKJV)
Jehovah appeared to Abraham and made a promise to him. I will give this land to your descendants. But Abraham was far from possessing that land – he had only just arrived there. And he had no children. Yet, he was given this promise. Abraham began to believe because he had received this promise. It was not that one day he was greatly moved in his heart all of a sudden that he began to think and believe this was going to happen to him. Our faith is based on history. This is a book of history. This event had happened in that land at a certain point in time, and that which took place a long time ago has a connection to us now in the present time. It’s historical. Hence to understand the historical element of faith has a direct correlation with our faith.
When the Bereans heard Paul’s preaching, they didn’t say, “Wait a minute, let us pray first to see whether your preaching is from God or not.” They then didn’t turn around and pray together and then conclude, “We don’t think your preaching is from God.” Instead, they checked the historicalness of Paul’s words – whether or not his words had any relation to God’s word, the promise which God made with Abraham a long time ago. And just as the prophets had continued to testify about that promise, they checked if Paul’s words were in line with their testimonies. They examined the historicalness. And when they found that it was so, many of them believed, as the Bible says. That is faith. Today, many Christians are very emotion-driven that they identify faith as a stirring of their emotions. And as they excessively lean towards feelings, faith is thrown into a great deal of confusion. But we need to be well aware that faith is about historicalness.
That is why the Gospel of Luke is very important. The Book of Luke was written by a man named Luke, but he had never met Jesus in person. He heard about Jesus through Paul, but even Paul had never met Jesus in person. So there was quite a distance between Luke and Jesus. Yet, he sought to believe and did believe in Jesus. And that required considerable effort. Because how can he believe when he has never seen but only heard from another person? So a lot of effort on his part was needed and also, there had to be something that could fill in the gaps.
The Gospel of Matthew then was written by Matthew, who was a disciple of Jesus. He had followed Jesus and hence listened to His words and believed Him. He believed what he saw and heard. And then Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark, came to know Jesus through Peter. Although he himself had not met Jesus, through Peter, he heard about Jesus – what He did and said. That is what he wrote about. John was another disciple of Jesus. This John had remembered the words of Jesus better than anyone else, and yet, he didn’t just write from a disciple’s standpoint. He received the Holy Spirit and was powerfully led by the Holy Spirit. So John wrote about Jesus, whom he came to know of through the Holy Spirit.
In this way, while the other disciples had either seen Jesus or heard about Jesus from people who had met Him, Luke had never seen Him, and neither did Paul, his teacher. Nevertheless, Luke believed in Jesus. So we can see that Luke made a great deal of effort. He worked hard to figure out objective facts about Jesus. And as it happened, he had an opportunity to report to Theophilus, and was given the right to make inquiries. So he gathered information that seemed most reliable and had them written. Luke was a doctor. Because of that, objectivity and rationality were important to him. For example, a doctor can’t treat a patient using some secret folk remedy passed down by his grandmother. Treatment has to have reasonable and objective grounds and should be credible when evaluated by other doctors too. So Luke didn’t accept or deal with subjective and unscientific approaches. When he made inquiries regarding Jesus, many people would have given testimonies. But he wouldn’t have written them all down, but selected only those that aligned with each other and were deem credible, which he then put together to be the Gospel of Luke. So the Gospel of Luke has historicity. Out of the four gospel books, the Book of Luke is the book which has everything written chronologically. It records everything in detail from the beginning.
The reason the Gospel of Luke is important is that it writes how all the works of Jesus are part of history and shows that Jesus was the one that the prophets had prophesied about. Luke himself wasn’t too concerned about the prophets. He simply wrote of the works Jesus did, and when the readers matched that up with the prophecies of the past, they found that they coincide. So they came to believe. Therefore, faith has nothing to do with one’s emotions. In fact, it is linked to our intellect and willpower rather than having to do with one’s emotions being excited. This is the foundation of faith.
How do we believe in Jesus now? We believe without having seen Him. How can we believe when we haven’t seen Him? We believe in the testimonies of the people who have met Jesus. We confirm that their testimonies coincide with the prophecies of the Old Testament and thus believe them. If we were to believe without such basis, that would lead to mysticism. Our faith must not be based on whether or not our hearts are burning with a particular feeling or emotion. A Berean is someone who reads the Bible and confirms that Jesus corresponds with the prophets’ prophecies. That is a true Berean.
Even just yesterday, our overseer emphasized the difference between religion and faith. Actually, he has been emphasizing this throughout the year. Perhaps it’s not just this year, but ever since I came to this church, he has been talking about it. Even so, many people don’t seem to understand what he’s saying. And this issue isn’t unique to our church only. It is a huge problem in China at the moment. People don’t actually know what faith is despite having great zeal.
When we hear about the situation in the US, it’s almost the same trend. What is commonly being said is, “Stop asking God to give you something. What is important is your relationship with God,” which sounds very plausible. They emphasize that one’s relationship with God is the matter of importance, not the asking of something from God. And they go on to say that one must endeavor to see God’s face. They encourage people to focus on their relationship with God and thus seek to see God’s face. So then, how does one see God’s face? How does one draw nearer to God? Instead of focusing on the words of God in the Bible fulfilled to them, they teach people to rather see God’s face or rather try to feel God. That is what they mean by seeing God’s face – to feel God. Dive deep into your relationship with God and experience peace within; feel God as He is. Or they also say, wait on God, which is common in China. These are all from the same notion. And in Korea, they use the term, feel the touch of God; experience His touch. So what these people mean by the relationship with God is to feel God. So they just stay still and close their eyes. No longer do you need to ask for anything. Just feel God who is moving you. Can you feel that? Do you feel that God is with you? Perhaps you will feel something after a while. But that is what a religion is. To seek a feeling is religion.
There are many spiritual beings in this world, hence lots of methods to experience such mystical feelings. As people seek to feel something, if they sense a supernatural feeling coming on, they get drawn right into it. There are a lot of mystical and supernatural elements in this world. It is not only us who deal with the spiritual realm. Shamans call on the spiritual world and so do psychics, they resort to the spiritual. I recently saw on TV a program called “Exorcist” where this is shown plainly. By the end of the show, people turn out to be released from their troubles by pacifying the demons, but obviously, they would have edited it so as to show only the ones that worked out well. For those watching, it seems like the people on the show have great supernatural powers. And the process in between is almost similar to what we do. They also call out the demon and ask, “Who are you? Are you a man or woman? When did you come inside this person? How did you die?” They ask all these questions like we do. But how are they different to us? They don’t drive the demon out in Jesus’ name. Yet, they are able to feel everything and experience everything the same as we do. The only difference is that they cannot cast out the demons in Jesus’ name. That’s the difference.
Many people seek to experience their faith through these feelings and sensations. Of course, our faith is accompanied by experiences, yet those experiences are not about mystical feelings. Rather, it is having God’s words fulfilled upon us. That is what we mean by experiences. It is important to understand the historicity. In other words, the fact that God promised Abraham this land is very closely connected to us. I will continue further on this point next time, but this promise God made with Abraham actually came true 400 years or so later. The people of Israel conquered the land of Canaan. Then they were scattered all over the world.
And around 50 years ago, they recovered that land once again. Something remarkable happened. How incredible is this that is happening today? Ultimately the promises made by God for their flesh will be fulfilled to Israel one day. This is a parable for us which will become a spiritual reality. However, in the flesh, it is fulfilled to Israel on earth. And when the Jews see the fulfillment of what they had been hoping for, they would probably testify of God’s faithfulness in their own ways. But that in turn could lead to enormous persecution upon us Christians. In that time, as the promise of God is brought to fulfilment, we will be severely persecuted in this world. Nevertheless, that in itself will be a fulfilment of God’s promise to us as well. In this way, God’s promise is fulfilled to us and them. As we can see Israel is gradually recovering the land. And not long ago, I heard on the news that they are building a school for priests. Though they have yet to recover the land where the temple is to be built, they are going to build a school in that area to train priests. So once they restore the temple, the priests can perform service in the temple again. This was something that aggravated the Palestinians. Actually, they may have already completed building the school since they announced their plan back then. So the word is progressively coming to fulfilment in history.
Our faith, therefore, is very objective and ascertainable through reason. So if I am unable to control my emotions and feelings, that’s an issue with my emotions; it has nothing to with faith. That doesn’t mean that my faith has fallen. We must make sure to have a sound faith which is founded on the Bible. There are so many things we can talk about in the Bible, but first and foremost, what we must learn from the Bible is how we obtain faith. That is the starting point for everything else. The book written by the senior overseer titled, The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible, highlights this. Even the 1st, 2nd, 3rd lectures of Berea Academy are all teaching about the Bible. How should we read and understand the Bible? That’s the first step of having faith which then leads to everything else. However, many people pay little attention to the Bible. Understanding the Bible is key to having faith. So many assume they already know this because they learned about it and overlook it. But in fact, they haven’t fully grasped it.
The Lord said, “in the end times, will I find faith on the earth?” This means it will be hard to find faith even inside the church. Recently there is something growing popular among overseas Chinese communities all over the world called ICUN??(uncertain about this Chinese word) in seeking some supernatural experience. If you hear of any overseas Chinese who are going to Hong Kong to study, it’s probably that. What they focus on are these mystical experiences. For example, they have a crusade and there’s a fire. So they called the fire brigade, but it turned out that there wasn’t a fire. This kind of supernatural experience. However, as they emphasize experience and more experience, they are devoid of God’s word. The word of God is not in them and all they have are these so called experiences.
Actually, something similar also took place in Korea. Until the 80s, a pastor named Na Wun-Mong, who built the Mt Yong-Moon prayer house was known for such supernatural phenomena. Once he came and shared his testimony at CBA (Youth group), of how such mysterious phenomenon occurred. He said a person was lifted up to the ceiling about 4-5metres high and back down, as though it was a scene from a movie. And there was a fire, but when the fire brigade was called, there wasn’t any fire, but people were saying it was very hot. Such mysterious things happened.
However, those occurrences cannot develop into a faith movement that can be universalized and made common. Those things could appear at times in history and in various places. However, that is not the foundation of our faith. What is it that we are trying to do right now? Why do we stress Berea so much? We need to understand the Berea Movement. We find faith from the Bible. Our faith is gained through the Bible. How were the Scriptures written? As we can see here, the very words which Jehovah had spoken to Abraham by appearing to him were written down; they were not simply what Abraham supposed in his own mind. In other words, there is historicity. Let us pray to become true Bereans who properly understand the way to having faith.
God our Father, help us to gain our faith from the Bible. While so many Christians are losing faith and wandering about, help us not to follow their ways but to become true Bereans. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center