Part 10. Fatalism
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
Today, I would like to discuss fatalism. Before we believed in Jesus, many of us consulted fortune tellers and believed that their fate was predetermined. In Korean society, which has a long history deeply rooted in the caste system, especially during the Chosun Dynasty when the commoners, slaves, and nobility were divided for five centuries, it was difficult for people to succeed no matter how hard they tried. It was tough to live well. For individuals born into slavery, it was a common occurrence for women to endure mistreatment, including rape, and when they gave birth to children, these offspring were also destined for a life of servitude. This went on for 500 years. Imagine how frustrating it must have been. There appeared to be no means of escape.
In fact, for those people, community life suddenly changed when Japan colonized Korea. For many, it could have been perceived as a form of liberation, as they were finally breaking free from 500 years of rule by noblemen. In some ways, it might have been a positive development for around 80% of the population, although this perspective may differ from contemporary viewpoints. Nonetheless, among those who had endured relentless oppression for so long, phrases like “it’s just fate” and “follow your destiny” became deeply ingrained in their hearts.
Furthermore, the people in North Korea are trapped in a totalitarian regime, enduring severe hardships under a dictatorship. Even if they have talent, it is difficult for them to receive good treatment unless they are born in Pyongyang, the capital city. Those in Pyongyang manage to live somewhat semblance of a normal life, but those from other regions may end up in prison camps or even face execution for minor offenses. They grow up witnessing such grim realities from a young age.
I have had the opportunity to meet and spend time with people from North Korea in northeastern China, and their mindset is incredibly distinctive. This is a result of them being exposed to many deaths from early childhood, including executions or shootings. Life itself is a perpetual struggle for them. Consequently, their language, particularly their use of profanity, is totally different from our own. When I first heard profanities coming from their mouths, especially when uttered by a woman, it was very shocking to me. They even direct such profanity towards their family members and grandchildren, which affects the people in northeastern China as well. So, these individuals believe it is their fate, something they have come to accept as a natural way of life.
However, how has our God treated human beings? His treatment is fundamentally different. It has nothing to do with fatalism. Those entrenched in fatalism can be considered closed beings, but those who are in God are entirely open beings.
Why are we open? When God created human beings, of course, He had a purpose in mind and created them for that purpose. However, He did not just decree, “Live this way forever.” Instead, He said, “While you are on this earth, you will face suffering in the physical realm, but when you go to Heaven, there is an infinite…” The spectrum of life, the spectrum of choices we can make, is boundless. It stretches infinitely from the lowest point to the highest. How wide is this spectrum? If humans, who were initially living like animals, are given additional opportunities, they can live more dignified lives, resembling true humanity. However, beyond that, God bestows upon them the opportunity to live as His people. And beyond that, He provides them with the opportunity to live like angels, which in itself is a glorious prospect. But it does not end there. He grants the opportunity to live as sons of God. Its glory is the glory of God Himself. Consequently, the fact that He offers us the opportunity to live as children of God, on an equal opportunity with the only begotten Son, means that He provides us with the opportunity to become like God.
On the other hand, how far can that remarkable being fall downwards? Until the level of animals. Even within animals, there are single-celled organisms like amoebas and bacteria. They have physical bodies, too. Even amoebas, for example, have their own meaning and significance in their life, but humans might become a form of existence even lower than amoebas, namely, demons. Frankly speaking, demons can be regarded as worse than amoebas. It might be better to live as an amoeba and eventually perish rather than become a demon, enduring eternal suffering without the release of death. Even going further down, there is the devil, the father of lies and the first murderer. So they might become the ones who receive the same treatment as the devil, ultimately becoming utterly filthy, vile, and can only exist in darkness.
That is why we can say it is completely open. Now, the question arises: what will you choose among these options? Does God determine all of this from the very beginning? Does He decree, “You go here, you go there, and you go over there?” No, that is not the case. In the Bible, there is a verse that states, “He will reward each according to what they have done” (Matt 16:27). Each person makes their own choice. So, when an individual recognizes this, they will consider how to live on this earth for themselves.
While counseling pastors in China, I have observed that some of them do not keep the “Principles of an Independent Church.” They frequently maintain connections with members of other churches and operate groups through the internet. We advise against this practice, as it might break the principle of an independent church. It can result in interference with the ministries of other churches and create confusion among their members. And their church members may also face unwarranted interference from pastors of other churches. Consequently, it leads to confusion, division, and disputes. So, we strive to prevent these issues, but it can take several years for some pastors to fully comprehend our perspective. Nevertheless, we continue to advise them, “That is not that good.”
When we offer guidance, some pastors respond by saying, “No, in reality, it is like this, and that is like that. I did this because a brother requested it, and this happened…” They believe they are doing well and provide justifications, extending their reasons. However, we do not respond by saying, “No, even if that’s the case, it should be done this way due to these reasons.” Our aim is not to pinpoint and modify each of their actions individually. How can we individually point out and change so many people? Instead, we aim to inform them of the ideal objectives they should strive for.
Let us consider a scenario where we offer a level of 100, but someone’s current level is at 49. It is important to recognize that we do not expect this person to immediately reach 100, nor we demand it. Nevertheless, our teaching focuses on progressing towards that 100. When some people hear this, they might respond by saying, “No, even though we have reached this far, there are still 51% to go, and so on…” But we do not anticipate this kind of reaction. What we expect from them is continuous progress in that direction. It might take them one year, two years, or even ten years to get there – the pace is entirely up to them. We present this openly. However, many people who hear this often do not fully understand it and respond with explanations like, “Oh, this is like this, and that is like that,” attempting to justify themselves. Typically, when we encounter such situations, we say, “Please refrain from speaking in that manner.” Our goal is not to point out and correct these aspects of their behavior. Furthermore, we are not unaware of those circumstances; we understand everything. We simply provide a clear direction to follow. Ultimately, the decision to follow it or not is entirely theirs.
Some individuals pay close attention to our advice and steadily progress from 49 to 69, 89, and eventually 99. Conversely, others quickly generate excuses like, “I can only do it this way because of this and that,” and they rush to justify themselves. As a result, they miss out on our guidance and remain stuck at 49 when we reconnect with them later. Nonetheless, it is entirely acceptable to stay at 49, as long as it is a firm and unwavering position. Without such stability, they may easily slide down to 39 or even 29. Therefore, our current objective is to clarify the target for them.
This is how Jesus is dealing with all of humanity. So, when He says, “Do this, do that,” it does not necessarily mean He is absolutely confident that you can achieve everything perfectly at 100%. It is more like an instruction to strive for that level. Of course, it might take time to get there, and we understand that. We are waiting for them with a mother’s heart. However, those who do not fully understand our intentions might perceive it differently, thinking, “They scolded me for a 50-point difference. They criticized me. They said I couldn’t do it.” They might even believe, “They have abandoned me. They hate me.” So, even if we convey the same message, the individual’s response, progress, or stagnation can vary significantly depending on their vessel.
So, what kind of person can grow? Above all, a healthy mindset is essential. The vessel receiving our counsel needs to be healthy. It should not be distorted. A distorted vessel cannot grow, even if it hears the same words; instead, it might mistakenly perceive our intentions as continual blame. In reality, we do not invest as much energy in blaming them as they may assume. I have no interest in attacking or reproaching them for their mistakes. Jesus desires the Kingdom of God to prosper, and anyone who shares that aspiration seeks to reach that extent. It is an open path with nothing predetermined. That is why they should make an effort. “Am I inadequate?” I understand that self-doubt, but I hope they will put in the effort and reach this point about ten years later. Then there will be rewards later.
For those accustomed to fatalism, it might not be easy to do it like this. Therefore, if you are accustomed to fatalism, you quickly break free from it and realize, “Ah, I am an open being. I am the one making choices. I am the one selecting and moving forward in the glory of heaven.” If you understand that, then you can bring about change.
Even if you currently are at a lower level, you can gradually change yourself little by little, as per the advice of Football Coach Hiddink, who said, “Improve by 1% each day. Then, after a few dozen days, you will reach 100.”
Angels, on the other hand, are entirely different beings from us. Why is it that humans can experience growth like this? What is the path of life for humans? It is the word. When humans obey the word of God, it becomes life within their spirits. Through God’s word, our spirits can attain a more glorious state. By obedience, humans can reach the level of the Son of God. But without obedience, they may regress to a beastly state, and by obedience to the word of the flesh (the Law), they may turn into angelic servants. However, by obeying the word of God bestowed by Heaven, they ascend to the level of the Son. We can continue to ascend according to God’s word.
It is like a rope lowered from Heaven. If you keep ascending, you can reach the very end, the throne of Heaven. However, the same does not hold true for angels. What is to bring life to angels? It is their duty, their calling. Angels are closed beings. That is why they should not progress. Lucifer’s attempt at progress ultimately led to his downfall. Angels were created one by one from the beginning. In contrast, humans began as one and multiplied. The command for humans is to progress, but angels were individually designated from the start. So their name is all known. “You are A, you are B, your duty is C, your duty is D.” That is why they remain eternally unchanging. If they try to transcend their position through progress, then that leads to corruption. They are closed beings, and they should only keep their position as they were ordained. But humans are not such beings. They can live like angels, like beasts, or like God.
Where is that decided? Surprisingly, this eternal life is determined in just a few decades on this earth. The choices we make during this time are crucial. It is not too late even now.
Before people recognize it as reality, they often regard their faith life as merely religious life, and they engage in God’s work only when they have free time. I am not saying it is a bad thing; such individuals will reap its level of glory later. It is not negative; it is much better than going to hell. However, those who understand the secret are willing to sell everything to buy that precious gem. “Now is not the time! I do not have time to spend on such things. I only have about 70 years. Where else am I going to spend it? Am I using it just to sell cell phones?” They invest their time wisely and obtain the most valuable pearl. Their sacrifices and choices lead to a greater reward later on.
The disciples probably did not even think about Heaven. Their primary desire was simply for Jesus to liberate them from the Romans and establish Himself as the king of Jerusalem, saying, “Grant us the positions at your right and left hand.” But in reality, it is about going to Heaven and sitting next to Jesus Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God’s throne. It is about sharing in that same glory with Christ.
The perspectives of the disciples (who asked the question) and Jesus (who answered) differ. Jesus inquired, “Can you drink the cup?” They replied, “Oh, yes, I can drink it.” And Jesus said, “Then drink it. But whether it is prepared for someone or not, that person will receive it.” It is not predestined from eternity, but rather, it depends on one’s actions on this earth. God will calculate it accurately and precisely. So, each person will receive accordingly.
Do not need to think that you have been excluded from the beginning. You have the potential to attain it, too. Do not start off discouraged, saying, “I cannot do it because Pastor Ki-Dong Kim is there. Peter, James and others… Ah, I am hopeless.” If you react like this, it means you do not understand God well. God does not have a one-to-many relationship like that; He should be approached on a one-to-one basis. Comparisons do not apply. Even if it seems like a lot has been done outwardly, there could be things you do not know. Anyway, those who love more and serve more for Him will receive more. So, in advance, thinking, “Oh, I can’t do it,” is all fatalism. Also, asking, “What is God’s will for me?” is something that keeps coming up due to a fatalistic mindset. When was it predetermined? God tells you to rise to higher places. He keeps telling you to attain the glory of higher levels. Yet, you keep asking, “Where is my predestined position that God determined from eternity?” Would it have been better if you were born as an angel? Continuously saying such things might lead to God saying, “Why don’t you just be an angel?” Even though God desires to give you something better now, you keep resisting. Therefore, we should not give up and keep striving to obtain it.
The path to obtain is also explained. Do not just seek higher positions for the sake of boasting. What would you do to get higher? By seeking the lower places with humility and becoming a servant. That is the essence of it. The methods are also provided. Even if you feel like you are only doing small things on earth or within the church, there is still hope. Even if you are packaging the book somewhere, there can still be more hope. It depends on your mindset. Do not turn everything upside down because of such words, but even if you do small tasks, do them with faith.
Let us pray to recognize that we are open beings and avoid being steeped in fatalism so that we can strive to follow the path that the Lord has opened, drawing nearer to Jesus.
Heavenly Father, we lived according to fate in the past, but now, we have not only surpassed the level of animals but also become those who belong to Heaven by the word that God has given us. Moreover, we became the ones to be treated equal to that of God’s Son. Please help us abundantly obtain what God has allowed through the word and by guiding us with the power of the word. May all those who we help us also know this amazing grace so that they may become those who receive even greater glory. We pray in the name of Jesus, amen.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
Lunch prayer meeting, Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on June 20, 2019
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team