“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”
Galatians 3 : 3 – 9 NKJV
Why do we lead a faith life, and what are we trying to do through our faith? Jesus said, “I have come to give life, to give life more abundantly.” We believe in Jesus to have life. But that life is not the life we have on this earth as we know it; those who are trying to have life eternally have faith. People who want to live forever have faith. Otherwise, people cannot believe in Jesus if they do not hope for this.
People want to be loved and loved forever even though they know that the other person cannot love them forever. And since they cannot receive what they want, the disappointment leads to anger which may result in extreme actions because they decide they would rather die with the other person. This kind of desire of man to be loved forever is the soul-spirit’s wish. It is the spirit’s desire. The spirit wants to have eternal life and even gives us a longing for the Eternal One(God) whom we had not known before so that eventually we seek God.
We have received life. However, it does not stop there. It is Jesus’ will that we receive life and have it in fullness. Our spirit also earnestly longs to have it in greater abundance. Therefore, we must have a sound faith, for we cannot obtain it without faith.
Then what is faith? This is the question. People say that they have faith, but later down the track, they find out that what they had was not faith. That would be a disaster. Jesus even warned of that. The farmer(master) clearly sowed wheat, but how come weeds also grew? People that have weeds have weed-like faith. Yet they do not even realize it. Why? Because they are inside a church. Thus, on the last day, on the day of judgment, they will be separated. The Bible says that. They do not realize that they are weeds until then because they are together inside a church. But how will they be separated?
When I was in high school, I stepped into a church seeking love. I was very lonely and decided to go to church. Of course, I did not get to hear anything about Jesus there. One week I heard about Abraham, another week about David and then the next week about Ruth. As I heard the stories about many people, I was told to make wise decisions as they did and take a more assertive attitude towards life. However, I did not hear about Jesus. I thought that was faith. In the beginning, I had a kind of reverence for Christians, but as I went to church and saw what it was like, I wondered, ‘How come I am better in this regard than them?’ Since I was in anguish and making every effort in that matter, the conclusion they were suggesting seemed so childish. So, I concluded that I was far better than them and quickly became arrogant. I even wrote an article for the church even though I was an unbeliever. And it got published in the church paper. People were treating me as though I had faith and commending my writing. And I began to look down on them, thinking that there was not much to faith.
When I was in my last year of high school, I took part in a night of literature held at that church. There were not any high school students in their final year that took part because they had to study. So, I said to myself, ‘If you guys really know the truth, how can you be studying for your final year and not come to church?’ Although I was an unbeliever at the time, I regarded them as fake Christians. Even though I was in my last year of high school, I was very active in church. And I thought that was faith. At that time, we played the guitar, sang songs, recited poems, and performed acts every day, and I regarded those people as having faith, and they also thought they had faith. But after we took our university entrance exams, those people all failed. The ones that got into university stopped coming to church because of university, and the ones that failed stopped coming because they had failed. And everything just fell apart. I was lost. Did I really have faith or not? In my eyes, as an unbeliever(at that time, I was just half-committed), it all seemed so ridiculous. Faith is all futile, I thought.
Later, I went to the army. Because I had received the Holy Spirit and was definitely changed, even in the army, I was very fervent. There were two guys in the army who were seminary students. They were in the religious division. But I noticed that their faith was not even close to mine – even though I had only recently been born again. When those guys were discharged from the army, perhaps everything they experienced during their life in the army had some influence on them. And one day, one of them told me that they were going to discontinue their seminary studies. I asked why, and he said he did not know much about the world. He was oblivious of the world, he said. He did not know that the world was like this and that he was just very naive that he believed in God. Although I did not say this to him, I thought to myself, ‘It’s not the world that you don’t know but God.’ He was not thinking about knowing God but wanted to know more about the world and therefore was quitting theology.
Afterwards, I started working. I started my job at a Christian social welfare center. Taehwa Christian Welfare Center. It is the oldest welfare center in South Korea. Everyone who worked there was Christian. My manager was also Christian. His father was a pastor. The head of the department was a seminary dropout. He was a heavy drinker. Once he told me while he was drinking that he went to the seminary to meet God but found out it was all futile. And my manager, whose father was a pastor, called me when I was resigning because of God’s calling and said to me, “Hey, I’m a pastor’s son. Everybody goes through what you’re going through now in their youth. But that’s just a flash in the pan. You need to work for at least five more years.”
After I heard what he said, I answered, “Okay. I understand.” And I set my heart to work for another five years. As the days went by, it was not right. The more I prayed, the clearer it was. Although I was sitting at work, my heart was elsewhere. It was God leading me. I could not help it anymore. Later, I went to see him again to tell him of my resignation, and he started to say this, and words of unbelief were coming out of his mouth. So, I told him, “I don’t think you received the Holy Spirit,” which shook him a little, and he said, “Hey, I’m a pastor’s son!” He continued to say that he was also able to believe in God, but he sometimes did not go to church. So, I asked what is the evidence that he received the Holy Spirit. And he said he could believe in God, that God does exist.
But I think I lacked in the knowledge of the Holy Spirit at that time. Later, when I looked back to that time, there was something I wished I had said to him – that even the demons know God is one. I wanted to tell him that even the demons know that God is one and is living, that He is the only God. But they fear Him. Although they fear Him, He has nothing to do with them. So, can that be called faith? Anyway, I left that job afterwards.
Some time after that, I went to China. I noticed in China that people did have a faith life, but they themselves were not even sure if what they had was real faith. Hence, some people who claimed to believe in Jesus manifested as demons, later saying that they had no idea. When we asked people who go to church to raise their hands if they were confident of going to heaven if they died that day, on average, 95% could not raise their hands. Maybe one or two people raised their hands. Only two people were confident that they would go to heaven. The rest of them could not raise their hand even if we told them to. So, if we asked, “Why do you go to church?” They would answer, “To go to heaven.” “So, will you go to heaven? Do you know?” “I’m not sure yet.” “Why is that?” “I lack too much still.” That is right.
Such a person can never be saved. They go to church, but they lead a faith life which cannot save. Yet they are very zealous. It is just like what I observed when I first came to church. I used to think that was faith. Just like those young people, I thought it was faith if you went to church fervently, sang praises, and actively participated in church programs. But later, I found that was not faith at all.
Then there were people who thought they had faith if they took part in a mass at the cathedral, especially in the old medieval times. That is the way the leaders taught them; hence attending church was vital for them. Going to the cathedral was faith to them. Their faith was cathedral centered. Does a person have faith? Did she or he receives the Holy Spirit? Do they display power? These things were not important to them. Their focus was on attending the cathedral. What did they do at the cathedral? The holy communion. Did she or he take part in the holy communion? That was the main thing. Because they teach that if one takes part in the holy communion and eats the bread, he is saved. Therefore, to emphasize this, they claim that the bread turns into the flesh of Jesus and the wine into Jesus’ blood.
Irrespective of whether a person has faith or not, if he ate the flesh of Jesus, he would be saved. Thus, they are making them ignorant. In order to maintain their authority, the Catholic Church had made people ignorant. They forbid them from reading the Bible and even kill the people who tried to translate the Bible into English. When they attempted to translate it again, they killed them again; when they translated to German, they killed them; people went into hiding because they were being hunted down, and eventually, they were killed. Later, they even dug up the bones of those people who died and burned them. That is how they forbid people from reading the Bible. They made people ignorant. Eventually, they came up with a faith that was not faith so that people would have a futile faith.
So then, what actually is faith? What is faith? What do I have to have inside of me to say that I have faith and eternal life? What do I need to have to say that I have a life? What must I have in order for the Holy Spirit to guarantee and testify that I have faith with signs and wonders? What is it that I should have in me? That is what we have to find. That is what we need to have. It is useless even if you have much of everything else.
Today’s churches have too much of a glamorous appearance. They have a magnificent choir, a grand worship place, and a large congregation which people look at and think of as faith. They would think, “Ah, this is what a church is supposed to be.” But were there such things during the time of Jesus? A pipe organ? Is that faith? Is that the center of faith? Those things did not exist in the past. In that regard, Abraham was a man of very little faith. Abraham did not play the guitar; he did not sing hymns; he did not run a choir nor build a magnificent worship place. Did he do the holy communion? So, does that mean Abraham was nothing? We need to figure out what is central to our faith. We have to find it quickly. What should we look at to find it?
For example, there are many different kinds of monkeys. Some do not even look like monkeys but more like foxes. But how do we know that they are a type of monkey, not a fox? If all of their hairs were removed, they would look similar to foxes. Hence, how do we figure it out? How can we differentiate them from foxes? Similarly, some people do paternity tests and even file paternity suits because of inheritance issues. Someone might claim to be the son of a man who owns a large business. But the man never knew of another son. In that situation, they do a paternity test to find out whether he really is the son or not because if he is, he is entitled to the inheritance.
They do a DNA test. No matter how similar they look, if the DNA does not match, then he is not the son. On the contrary, if the DNA matches, he is the son, even if he does not look anything like his father. In the same way, what faith do I have? To check this, we have to see if the faith DNA is in us. Do I have the DNA of faith which God has revealed? What is that faith? What is the DNA of that faith? After removing everything else, such as the congregation, faith life, the church aesthetics, guitars and drums and even the wonderful fellowship with the saints, all that is left is just the DNA. Even if the body decays, what is left is the DNA. DNA can be found even in a single strand of hair. Thus, when we have that, we can determine what our faith is.
Hence, what is faith? How do we know? That which is like the seed of faith is the blessing which God gave Abraham – the blessing of Abraham. Therefore, as I said, whoever believes in Jesus possesses the blessing of Abraham. The question is, then, do you have the blessing which God gave to Abraham? It says in Galatians 3:9 that whoever believes in Jesus has faith like Abraham’s. “So then, those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” So, they possess the blessing of Abraham. This is just as God promised Abraham. “You shall be a blessing. In you, all the nations shall be blessed.” That is how we have been blessed. What is the blessing that God gave Abraham? Because that is what has been shared with us, we need to know what it is. What is the blessing given to Abraham? That is why our faith cannot ignore history. Our faith cannot ignore Abraham.
What is in the very first verse of the New Testament? Abraham. “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” What is the blessing given to Abraham? It says that whoever has faith is blessed along with Abraham. Then, what is Abraham’s faith? People might think of the attitude Abraham had before God’s word. Or, they think of Abraham’s zeal or his fidelity of how he never changed towards God for 40 years but obeyed the word. However, that is not the main point. What is the point of Abraham’s faith? What do you think is central to Abraham’s faith? Blessing? The word? Yes. It is not about what Abraham did. It is more about what Abraham was given. The word which God had given to Abraham is central to the blessing. That is the faith DNA we received. The question is, do we have it? The promise which God gave Abraham has born fruit to us today. The key DNA of all the wonderful things we receive is the promise which God gave Abraham. And that promise has been fulfilled upon us.
As I said yesterday, what is at the center of that promise? That the blessing of Abraham might come upon us, that we might receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. Hence, even receiving the Holy Spirit is according to the promise made to Abraham by God. For this reason, receiving the Holy Spirit is key to proving our faith DNA. This is because receiving the Holy Spirit is exactly what God promised Abraham. The fact that we received the Holy Spirit was not all of a sudden, but it is central to the blessing that God already promised Abraham. What is that which God promised Abraham? That promise applies to us directly. That is definitely a promise given to Abraham, not me.
Nevertheless, it is because we believed in Jesus that blessing became ours, in Jesus, and the promise became ours. Although this was something God spoke to Abraham about 4000 years ago, we regard it as ours. And we acknowledge that as faith. Hence, when we have faith within us, we are Abraham’s descendants by faith. It says in Galatians 3:7 that those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. Where it says “sons,” it is equivalent to descendants in Hebrew. It means descendants of Abraham. That is the reason why people of the Old Testament said, “Father Abraham! Father Abraham!” But since we received the reality of that blessing, we no longer say, “Father Abraham!” Rather we call the One in Heaven as Father. “God our Father!” We have seen the reality of faith.
However, the seed was first planted in Abraham. Thus, we need to carefully observe how this seed came to grow in order to understand the historical nature of our faith – that our faith was not just given in the present time but how it is the fulfilment of God’s word. Have a look at the word fulfilled to Abraham. That is what we believe in. Our God spoke to Abraham 4000 years ago. Do we check that those words have been fulfilled 4000 years later in the present time or not? God definitely promised Abraham that his name would become great. And today, all the people around the world that have faith in the One and Only call themselves descendants of Abraham.
So, how great has that name become? Is there anyone who does not know Abraham? Everyone honors Abraham and regards him as a great figure, and acknowledges that through him, they have been blessed. Hence, we have confirmed the fulfilment of the promise. By confirming the promise God made to Abraham, what can we understand? We can be certain that every word of God does get accomplished. That is how we can have faith. We can believe that His words will be fulfilled in us, also. We are not forcing ourselves to believe this, but by verifying the history of it – how God’s word was planted, how that word grew and then bore fruit – we come to have faith automatically. That is faith. And we come to believe the words that say, “You will be a blessing.”
It is not that we have to try so hard to believe. I truly believe that I am a blessing, but I do not need to pray to force myself to believe this. I just believe. I do not have to keep saying “I believe” because it is just believable. Why? I know how God has fulfilled His words over the past 4000 years and that those words are living. I do not even need to ask, “Grant me this word. Touch me by this word.” I have already gone into this word. I am in the Word. Therefore, it is very clear and obvious that I will be a blessing, and all people will be blessed through me. I am absolutely sure.
I am a hopeless wreck. When I think about what I do, my deeds and my character, my patience level, and so on, I just sigh. But I still believe that I am a source of blessing. It is an astounding faith. This did not come about from me. There are times when I have no confidence in myself to preach. So, how can I preach? But there is no need to even say, “How can I preach?” Because it is not myself who preaches. I am testifying of the faith God gave me and what God has done. Did I ever testify about myself? Did I testify about my godliness? So, I do not understand when people say, “Oh, I don‘t have the confidence to preach,” or “I am lacking too much to preach.” Of course, we are lacking. Would we be perfect? But because I am certain that His words will be fulfilled to me and will be active, my faith is solid. My faith is unshaken. Even something might happen to me. It does not matter because faith is to believe that the Word is living and active.
Hence, this faith cannot be shaken. The Word is unshakeable. Thus, if my faith is in this Word, that means the Word has come into me, and I am in the Word. Even if I might have committed such an immoral sin that I cannot even lift my head up in shame, I will still testify about Jesus and confess that I am a blessing. Although Abraham lied about his wife and sent her off to the king of Egypt, despite his shameful actions, he was not shaken. Although he took Hagar and tried hard by human means when he later realized that is not the way, how embarrassed and humiliated would he have felt? Nevertheless, he was not shaken one bit. This faith did not come from me but through the promise of God. Therefore, just acknowledge it. I am a blessing. Why? It is the word of promise given to Abraham. So, for us, let’s give thanks. Thank You, God, for letting the promise given to Abraham to be fulfilled in us. Thank You for granting us this faith of great history. Help us to possess sound faith. Let’s pray together.
Father God, since the word given to Abraham, has become the seed of faith even to us, help us to know what is key to this faith and have substantial faith. Help us not to have an empty faith that is deceived by the things we see but help us to have the faith that is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on August 3, 2012
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team