Part 2. Conviction and Faith
Yesterday, we read the preface to the article “Rejecting Mysticism.” Upon careful reading of its contents, we can see that contemporary Christianity is trending towards two extremes: one is absolute “Dogmatism,” which opposes all experiences of believers and only emphasizes the content of the Bible itself; the other is “Mysticism,” which blindly pursues personal experiences. Both of these problems are very serious, not only within our country but also worldwide.
First, since dogmatism only emphasizes the importance of the Bible and ignores the experience promised in the Bible, it ultimately reduces Christianity to a powerless religion.
Second, since mysticism only focuses on spiritual experiences, it causes believers to transcend God’s words and fall into the path of spiritual corruption.
This issue is also very serious because these people have experienced God and become more convinced of their mysticism. The separation sect in our church can also be seen as a form of mysticism because they did not base themselves on the revealed word of God but used their emotions, justice, and worldly ethics as standards. It is evident that they are also mystics.
Third, since faith life is a spiritual life, there are often special experiences that are not specifically recorded in the Bible, but they should not be generalized. Only the words recorded in the Bible and the experiences of these words can be common.
However, the problem is that there are many marvelous occurrences, and those who have personally experienced them are easily tempted to generalize them. Moreover, when others have had similar experiences, it becomes even easier to fall into this trap. For example, in the past, many people claimed that Jesus would return on October 28, 1992. They proclaimed to have received revelations, some were moved during prayer, and some saw visions. It was not just one person who saw a vision, but many people in different places saw it at the same time. How surprising was that? In addition, a famous pastor also claimed to have had such an experience. In such circumstances, who can resist this temptation? Who can deny something they have personally experienced? Most people would be deceived. However, we should not forget the devil and demons are working frantically in this world, so it is natural for such experiences to occur. Nevertheless, after experiencing similar experiences, some people treat them as absolute truths. They are just spiritual realities or phenomena, not the truth. The key to avoiding deception is not to deviate from what is recorded in the Bible, which is very important. If something is not recorded in the Bible, we must decisively reject it, regardless of how beneficial and joyful it may seem to us.
Semuon demonstrated great self-restraint and only spoke to the point, despite having so many things to say. Self-restraint is very important for a leader. People who cannot restrain themselves, once given the opportunity to preach, will open up everything they have learned without any skill or wisdom. Pouring everything out in one go, they quickly run out of things to say because they have already revealed all the contents of what they have learned. As a result, not knowing what to do next, they cannot continue teaching. They start wandering here and there to get new material to preach. It is because their way to receive the words of God is not right. They do not dig a well, but they simply take what they receive and pass it on without thinking. When I teach the words, I try to help to dig a well; therefore, those who receive the words need to dig a well. However, if the well is not dug properly, and as a result, it does not work. If you have understood what is being taught about digging the well, you will be able to have produced something for ten years. That is why Semuon exercised so much restraint and did not talk about things that did not need to be said to avoid falling into mysticism.
Therefore, even if we have had many mystical experiences, as leaders, we need to be very careful about our speech and not say things like “God spoke directly to me” without thinking. When Semuon shared his personal experiences in front of others, he always emphasized, “This is not the truth, but rather my personal experience.” Moreover, he only spoke a little when it was necessary, and he wrote these testimonies carefully in his books rather than in sermons. When we speak, we should always consider the potential impact on others, not just ourselves. Additionally, humans have a tendency to exaggerate, so those who learn from us may also exaggerate. Therefore, everyone must pay special attention to this point.
Paul was consistently cautious, recognizing that many people were watching him and learning from his every word and action. He said, “I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. So, I seek the good of others.” So, regarding the sacrificed food, he refrained from eating it out of consideration for the conscience of others, although he had the freedom to do so. Therefore, when we speak, act, or testify about our experiences, we should be very careful. And we must make sure that what we say is based on the words of the Bible.
However, those who misunderstand conviction for faith often talk about this story, known as the so-called prenatal care of sheep, and they teach the principle of “what you see will inevitably be achieved.” Moreover, they also say, “When you pray, you should always imagine the blueprint in your heart, just like a living picture in front of you. And, you must believe that I will definitely succeed, and it is best to draw out the specific appearance of your success.”
Of course, when you pray, it is permissible to imagine the content of our prayers specifically. However, the problem arises when you put Jesus aside and only emphasize the notion that “as long as I keep imagining it in my mind, I will definitely achieve it.” There is a saying like “diamond life” in this world. Companies like Amway widely recruit members and use phrases like “Don’t you want to live a diamond-like life?” to lure people in. Then, they show pictures of mansions with swimming pools and luxury cars and force them to hang the photos and shout motivational slogans many times a day, telling themselves, “I can do it!” In fact, these techniques originated from Christianity, but they completely removed Jesus and only retained the so-called positive thinking.
These techniques are effective and have a significant impact, which is why people are seized. According to scientists’ research and findings, if you curse a glass of water, saying, “You damn bastard!” and then praise another glass of water, saying, “I love you, you’re great! You’re an excellent help to me!” and observe the crystal structures of the two glasses of water, you will find that the one praised will have very clean and transparent hexagonal crystals, while the other glass’ crystals will be completely destroyed. Although I do not know how this was observed, it is said that drinking the negatively charged water can cause cancer, while drinking the positively charged water can make you healthy. This may be possible, but it has nothing to do with faith, as it is purely a physical phenomenon. Of course, I do not want to deny its ideas, as we cannot fully understand the mysteries and laws of this world, so such things may happen. However, they have nothing to do with our faith.
But in some churches, believers are taught in such a way that constantly stimulates them with phrases like “Please try to imagine! As long as you believe, you will definitely succeed.” When I was an unbeliever, I also thought this was faith because I heard many Christians say this. But you should know that this is completely unrelated to faith.
Before I believed in Jesus, when I was in college, I once participated in a basketball exam that involved throwing the ball into the basket. If you practice more often, your shooting skills will surely improve because the more you practice, the more proficient you become. But what did I believe at that time? I read a book that said, “Imagination alone can complete the practice.” So, at that time, I thought, “Although I haven’t personally practiced on the court, can’t I just imagine practicing in my mind? This way, I can improve my basketball skills.” So, I followed what the book said and practiced shooting every day with my eyes closed through imagination, even if I was lying in bed. On the day of the exam, I did indeed achieve a very good result, with a very high score. The effect before and after practice was indeed different. Is not that amazing? If someone experiences one or two of these things, they would believe this is faith. However, even within the church, some people mistakenly regard it as faith, but it is not faith.
Moreover, many churches have been trying to merge psychology and faith, and this has led to confusion for church members. While it is possible to see some connections between psychology and certain religious beliefs, it is important to recognize that these fields are separate and distinct. A few days ago, I saw a lecture titled ‘Jung and Christian Psychology’ by a speaker who seemed like a pastor. Carl Jung is a famous psychologist who wrote the book ‘The Map of the Soul.’ Maybe it is because of BTS, but these topics seem to be popular these days. Consequently, there are lectures that attempt to intertwine his psychological theories with the Christian faith, but it has nothing to do with faith.
In fact, this is mysticism. Their thoughts have nothing to do with God’s word. This is the current situation of Christianity.
Before joining Sungrak Church, I attended another church as a non-believer. My first impression of the church was that they really emphasized ethical and moral values, as well as how to conduct oneself in society. So, what did I think at the time? I thought Christians were very hypocritical because the way of conducting oneself is to teach people how to be successful in this world. Those Christians wanted to obtain the same things as worldly individuals, such as wealth, money, opportunities, etc., and they were very resourceful. Since believers rely on their God to take away everything that non-believers should receive, they thank God every day. So then, non-believers have no choice and start to think that “We were excluded, and God loves them only.” People around the world may dislike Christians who often compete with others for everything.
Churches these days are doing all sorts of things, like building kindergartens and cafes. People living next to these places may view the church as a competitor. For example, when a welfare center opens next to a church, this church may be seen as a competitor. In reality, these businesses are doing different things, but people increasingly perceive them as competing with one another. They might say with a bad impression, “Why is the church suddenly opening a welfare center next door? Churches should stick to their own business.” Then on the Lord’s Days, the church might also offer hair cut, causing nearby hair shop owners upset. The church seems to be involved in everything, even hosting bazaars, making nearby shops unhappy.
If the church becomes too involved with worldly matters, it may eventually end up being seen as an enemy by others. However, if we can be generous and remind ourselves that those are only for a means and we are seeking eternal things, if we remain this way, that would be good. Unfortunately, many churches in the world are not like this and instead focus on teaching people how to live in the world, which can lead to conflicts.
The reason for losing direction of faith is to stray away from the Bible and try to make things based on own conviction. Therefore, we need to differentiate between beliefs and faith clearly, not overlapping them. “Just work hard” or “Just think positively” are convictions, not faith. That does not mean you should not do those things; just know that they are for the physical body. The problem is that people have done everything on their convictions and neglect spiritual matters. “I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do.“ That is the problem. Of course, you could do it if you want to do it. It is good to make good use of your convictions and keep imagining how to do better. However, if you have not done anything spiritual, it is a problem. Spiritual matters are things that cannot go beyond Jesus Christ.
Therefore, even with just one concept of “conviction and faith,” we can have a tremendous impact. However, we have too many items, which makes us feel scattered. If we start planting one item at a time, it will be spectacular.
If you go somewhere to preach, please teach about “conviction and faith” several times rather than just once. In China, you could hold a crusade for five days a week, with twelve hours per day, and totally you could preach about sixty hours. Then, if you concentrate only on “conviction and faith” during that one week, you will see how diverse it can be. There are hundreds of topics like that. We have over two hundred fifty topics.
Now, let’s pray to have the faith that discerns the difference between conviction and faith.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
Lunch prayer meeting, Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on June 6, 2019
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team