Part 12: Know the Truth by the Holy Spirit
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
We have been discussing the topic of mysticism so far, and now I would like to look into the concept of being filled with the Holy Spirit—the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Semuon said that the reason he started the Berea Movement was a response to the excessive prevalence of mysticism. He exerted significant efforts, carrying chalkboards to explain the Picture of God’s Will to people, especially he focused on convincing and aiding their understanding by elaborating on the structure of the tabernacle. While these may seem commonplace in the present era, during the 60s and 70s, people were occupied with farming and making a living, leaving little time for learning or studying writing. It was a period when the prevailing sentiment was, ‘I need to get my kids to study.’ It was a time when most revivalists were active in a mystical manner, using phrases like “Listen, my daughter.”
Furthermore, the prevalent thought during that time was, “What do you want to know? Just believe only what the pastor tells you.” Due to this mindset, people were skeptical of anything Semuon said, primarily because it was totally different from their pastors’ teaching, and the content was in-depth. Consequently, despite their desire to criticize Semuon, they lacked biblical knowledge, so it prevented them from attacking him. Instead, they resorted to blaming Semuon, labeling him as “strange” and accusing him of heresy. To overcome this resistance, a higher level of understanding and knowledge was essential. That is why Semuon dedicated himself to teaching the Bible. While it was not possible to cover everything in a short time, he offered an overall picture, making the Bible visible and comprehensible to them.
One of the outstanding and powerful impacts of the Berea on individuals is that it prompts them to start reading the Bible after encountering the Berea. Not only do they find enjoyment in reading the Bible, but they also develop a deeper understanding of it. Before engaging with the Berea, the Bible was truly a very difficult book for us. It seems too complicated, lacking a clear structure and filled with unfamiliar terms, making it hard to understand the meaning. Consequently, many people tended to simply follow the pastor’s instructions, leading them to engage in religious activities and mysticism. In such a situation, when faced with the workings of a demon, individuals often lack the ability to overcome it. Occasionally, that person’s experience becomes a model, and many people follow his experience and end up focusing on the experience without God’s words. In a situation where these things were repeated, Semuon made people understand the Picture of God’s Will; therefore, they were able to read the Bible.
People may not be aware that Pastor Ki-Dong Kim initially pioneered the preaching method in Korea by citing each Bible verse one by one during the sermon. However, due to the unfamiliarity of these ideas, people carelessly labeled him as a heretic. Strangely, the basis of their accusations was the mention of numerous Bible verses during preaching. Regrettably, this misconception persists to this day. For instance, the Korea Christian Association (KCA) has published a guide titled “How to Distinguish Shincheonji,” in which one of the main characteristics of heresy is identified as the use of Bible verses in discussions. Shincheonji is indeed a heresy. However, it is illogical to argue that heresy is based on the frequent use of Bible verses when speaking. This notion has been widely spread, making it challenging for a faith movement to bring about change on a global scale. Semuon believed that it was essential to elevate people’s understanding, so he asserted, “Let us return to the Bible.” Simultaneously, he encouraged people to read and understand the Bible.
At that time, suggesting the “Return to the Word” would have been challenging. People had not heard or read the Bible; how could one discuss what’s written in it? Therefore, he asserted “Return to the Bible” so that people at the time could generally understand. Subsequently, with the establishment of the Berea Academy for educating leaders, he emphasized in the first, second, and third lectures that “‘returning to the Bible’ is ‘returning to the Word’ and ‘returning to Jesus Christ.’” This theme extends beyond these three lectures to all lectures of “The Proper Lens to View the Bible.” It speaks about what God has put in the Bible, that is, the Picture of God’s Will, and emphasizes returning to Jesus Christ, which is essentially returning to the Word.
It is crucial that each person understands the Bible, and this is precisely what Jesus Christ expects, which is why the Holy Spirit was sent. God did not send the Holy Spirit to a group. In the Old Testament era, the Holy Spirit was sent to a specific group—the Israelites. God sent His Spirit to lead them, not to individuals but to one nation or one country. Jehovah appeared to the people and spoke to them. Jehovah is also the spirit of God in a broad sense. Therefore, God sent His Spirit to the nation to work, and He did not deal with individuals.
Therefore, what was the most significant punishment at that time? What constituted the most significant curse? It was being cut off from the people, not being united. This was the most formidable curse and penalty, instilling fear. Consequently, the role of the king was crucial. Since the people were to follow the king, whether a king performed well or not was essential. Hence, the books of Kings and Chronicles contain numerous stories about kings, especially the Kings who highlight their wrongdoings as God dealt with the nation. In the past, the phrase ‘all nations of the world’ was used instead of ‘all souls of the world.’ God said, “Through you, all nations of the world will be blessed.” Exodus 19:6 also states, “If you listen to me well, you will be a priestly nation.” It was a national unit.
However, when Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, He does not send it to a nation. To whom does He send the Spirit now? One might think He sends it to each unit. But, He did not send it to a unit like a family, school, or church; instead, He sends it to an individual.
This is genuinely an incredible shock. Given that our country has been influenced by Christianity and Western civilization since before our birth, we could naturally embrace it. However, for people who lived in Jesus’ time over 2000 years ago, it would have been astonishing. As there was no significance to individuals at that time, it is very surprising that God regards each individual as an object. Through Jesus Christ, each person can stand before God. Therefore, repentance is not confined to family, church, or nation units. Occasionally, there are cases where a specific person repents on behalf of the country at national salvation prayer meetings and repents on behalf of the religious community. However, it is challenging to empathize with these instances. God said, “Let each person repent.” Each person receives Jesus Christ.
In the past, God did not casually place His significant name anywhere; He did not give His name to Abraham, Moses, or Jacob. He did not let them know His name. But where was it placed? When they became a great nation, God’s name was placed there. This is because it is such a precious name and cannot be given to just anyone; the name has to be well-preserved.
However, these days, the name of Jesus is more precious than any other name. Who will it be given to? To each person. God bestows Jesus’ name upon the spirit of each individual. We should deeply realize that this is something astonishing. Since we have received it without cost, we could take it too lightly. We must remember that many people shed their blood to achieve this. Above all, Jesus shed His precious blood for it. Jesus said that there will be more joy in heaven when one sinner repents. In other words, He considers one soul as more precious than the entire world.
Have you ever heard of such a concept? Did such a thing exist in Mesopotamia? Did such a thing exist in Korea during the Joseon Dynasty? Have you heard of such a thing in Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism, or Buddhism? And what about Islam? Islamic extremism even teaches that suicide bombing is the way to heaven and sacrifices the individual for the benefit of the whole. But Jesus considers each soul so precious, gives each soul a chance to repent, and then, He will reward each person according to what they have done. It is not based on what the group has done. So even though we live our faith life in the church as a group, Jesus will repay each of us according to what we have done. Therefore, it depends on how well each person handled their assigned role, how well they demonstrated their faith in that position, and how much they did based on their faith.
However, people’s thoughts—the thoughts of the flesh—are different from this. People, before experiencing such spiritual enlightenment, lived as a herd. During hunting activities in the past, they hunted together, ate together, starved together, moved together, and built houses together. Because of this, there was no need to respect for an individual. It was natural to be very stingy and have no respect for individual choices. This culture has persisted, but it has only been a few decades since our country changed from that. Therefore, the herding culture is deeply rooted in our blood.
So, when asked about the menu, many people often answer, “Anything. What everyone eats.” After placing an order, they say, “I don’t like this… I can’t eat spicy food.” It is difficult to make choices like this on their own. If so, you should check out a short cartoon video made by someone called ‘Jang Bbichu.’ It has 2 million subscribers. The person is good at satire, and there is a cartoon that depicts such annoying situations. The reason why individuals do not know how to make choices is that they were not taught to do so as they grew up. When parents make all the choices and force children, they become like that. Western children, even at the age of 4 or 5, seem mature. Sometimes, it is surprising. Even though they are children, they talk like adults. This is because they were asked for their opinions from an early age, like this: “How do you want to do this?” Their parents respect the children’s thoughts and opinions. However, we are not good at that. Korean parents used to say like that, “Do as the adults say. Eat whatever mom gives you. Understand?” This kind of education ultimately causes children to develop bad habits of walking on eggshells and not taking responsibility. This is because they have not learned to take responsibility for their choices.
However, what God taught is, “If you choose, then take responsibility for it. I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, choose blessing.” The emphasis here is on choosing. While God told Israel to choose in the past, Jesus came and revealed that each person has the opportunity to make choices. It is that each person should choose and take responsibility. It is a fundamental attitude in our faith that is very important. Each person chooses, and each person takes responsibility.
If we emphasize personal choice and responsibility, does that imply difficulty in being part of a group? Absolutely not. In fact, those who grasp this concept tend to thrive in a communal setting. Westerners, such as the British and Americans, excel at community living. Regarding consideration, totalitarianism is what lacks consideration. In many instances in Asia, there are occurrences where people pass by others’ distress without intervening. In one case, a child was hit by a car and was left struggling on the street, but passersby just walked past. Both passersby and vehicles continue on their way, even if they clearly witness the situation. Even another vehicle hit the child again, and the next one repeated the same. If the child is trapped, shouldn’t one stop to help? However, they often feign ignorance and continue on their way. Ironically, this tends to happen in countries with a totalitarian culture. This does not just happen once or twice. This kind of pattern is established where individuals inwardly hide, neglecting to consider personal choices and responsibilities. By avoiding choices, they evade taking responsibility, and eventually, it makes the faith life severely challenging.
We have consistently emphasized and taught the principles of independent churches; unfortunately, settling down proves to be quite challenging. Generally, the mindset of ‘please govern me, please dominate me’ is deeply ingrained in many people. This is more common in socialist countries. In our missionary work in China, they often ask us, “Please govern our church. Please become our pastor.” However, we persistently guide them toward becoming an independent church that can make choices aligned with following Jesus, receiving His guidance, and taking responsibility.
Korea has been a democratic country for several decades, so there has been some training in this aspect. However, in socialist countries, it is much more challenging. For instance, during my missionary work in China, I met individuals who did not choose their jobs based on personal preference. When they graduated from university, the government assigned jobs. This was just two or three decades ago. They did not have the opportunity to choose based on their preferences, and sometimes, they were assigned jobs unrelated to their majors. This is because the individual is not considered important. In such places, individual worth is reduced to merely the value of a physical being.
However, God respects the value of human individuals; He sends the Holy Spirit, gives the name of Jesus, and ultimately elevates individual worth to the extent of exalting the position of God. In other words, God changed an individual who once lived as an animal and slave into a being like God. How high has He lifted them? However, we are not trained to handle this. We are not accustomed to it. Moreover, we cannot even acknowledge it because the nation and society do not recognize it. Then how can we gain faith in this situation? Therefore, acknowledging the value God has given us is the beginning of faith.
Many believers often ponder, “How dare I… I am unworthy of that.” This perspective holds merit in certain situations. On the other hand, it can also be seen as a form of self-abandonment. So, when asked, “Are you righteous or not?” they might respond, “How can I be righteous?” If then questioned, “You believed in Jesus, you were ransomed. Then can you stand before God without shame? Can you enter heaven?” they may ponder, “Oh, how dare can I?” Especially in Korean culture, this is what people generally think, “I should be humble. How can I? Even our teacher can’t say that, so how can I?” Nonetheless, even if everyone says I do not believe, we should be able to declare, ‘I believe,’ which constitutes faith. Faith is a profoundly personal matter.
When the Jews declared, “This guy should be killed!” Stephen responded, “No, Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I see the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God in heaven.” Moreover, he asserted, “The God you worship is an angel.” Therefore, faith is not about blindly following the whole; it is a personal belief. The Lord also responded to that one person’s faith and stood up from the throne. Jesus said, “Who will sit at my right hand is something God will decide.” There will be one person on the right and another on the left. Even though everyone lives their faith together, in the end, each person will receive a deserving reward. So, Paul said, “It is a marathon.”
Faith involves believing that God rewards those who seek Him. Can those lack awareness and cognition of the individual hope for a reward? Hoping to receive a reward is not about wanting others to receive it but about oneself, so how can a person without self-awareness hope for a reward? It is crucial to recognize how much God respects ‘you,’ ‘the individual.’ Some people worry that this might foster egoism in society, but that is not the case. This is what Jesus gave us first, and the church was formed with individuals coming together. Just as diverse parts compose our body, when each part fulfills its roles and takes responsibility, the entire body becomes healthy.
What is totalitarianism? It is the idea that everything has to be the same. It disregards the importance of individual roles; the demand is for everything to be identical. If all the parts of the body become the same, what would happen? It would turn into a lump of dough, a rock, or an amoeba. Roles should vary for each part. It is crucial to have a clear understanding of this concept.
Why am I discussing this? This is because mysticism tends to emerge in situations that do not respect individual choices. Who were the Bereans? They did not immediately accept things, as the pastor might say, “Hey, believe this. If I say it, just believe it.” This was not the Bereans’ approach. When Paul came and presented unusual teachings, the Bereans returned home and searched for themselves. Each person examined the Scriptures. Among them were many women of high standing and educated men. They were learned and thoughtful individuals, so it was not about blindly believing. Berea is now a city in Greece. Greek culture has extensively investigated humans. It is ‘Christo-Roman.’ Therefore, it was the place where philosophy developed and humanities flourished.
The humanism referenced here is not anthropocentrism. At the Berea Academy, we emphasize theocentrism and explain its contrast, anthropocentrism. However, there are instances where people misunderstand anthropocentrism as humanism. It is essential to discern the distinction between humanism and anthropocentrism.
What is the opposite concept of humanism? What did humanism arise as a reaction to? That concept is totalitarianism. In other words, Christian humanism emerged in opposition to Roman Catholicism, which neglects the independence of the church and the independence of the individuals. While the Renaissance is generally associated with secular humanism, humanism originally emerged from the study of the Bible and the contemplation of faith in Christianity.
But before that, the medieval period cast a shadow over the world as the Dark Ages for 1,200 years, with the church wielding control over all of Europe. During this era, Europe held sway over the world, and the Pope reigned supreme within Europe. Since the church and politics were unified, kings had to submit to the Pope, and the people were under a political system aligned with the church. As a result, disobedience to the church could lead to execution by the state. It was a frightening era. In this situation, people came to their senses—what prompted a change? It was the development of the humanities—the Renaissance. While the standard for faith comes from the early church, it was overshadowed by clericalism, doctrinalism, and totalitarianism. Nonetheless, the humanities or the Renaissance played a crucial role in claiming a return to the early church.
Before that, the Bible had only been translated into Latin and had not been translated into other languages. However, as the humanities of Greek culture developed, many people began to study Greek. Among them, one individual read the original text of the Bible and discovered that the Latin Bible had been mistranslated to favor the clericalists. Consequently, that person named Jerome translated the Bible into Greek. This led those who read the Bible to awaken with the realization, ‘Ah, the things the Catholic group did were completely absurd. They have turned me into a thoughtless beast and a slave!’
During that time, printing technology had also advanced producing numerous humanities books that explored humanity. People read these books alongside the Bible and discovered that God valued each individual’s soul. This realization fostered the idea that ‘Each individual should stand before God. Each should have faith to stand before God. Each one is the priest to serve God.’ Eventually, Christianity arose, and the early church was recovered from then on. Thus, the humanities have had a profoundly positive influence on Christianity.
However, not all churches followed the same path, and there are still those influenced by Catholicism. Moreover, due to the inherent nature of humans striving for totalitarianism, churches tend to lean towards authoritarianism. People often say, “Well, that’s how it is. As time goes by, all churches become authoritarian. In the end, if that is the case, I might as well do it.” This is the kind of thinking that prevails.
The ongoing conflicts we are facing can be seen as a conflict between authoritarianism and each church’s freedom, as well as individual freedom. Based solely on personal experience, there are people who understand individualism as a concept that runs counter to the interests of the group and evaluates it negatively, but this is an odd way of thinking. Globally, individualism has a significantly positive meaning. Humanism also has a positive meaning.
Unfortunately, our country is currently headed in the direction of totalitarianism. China serves as an example of a socialist and totalitarian state. When they initially started totalitarianism, they did not openly declare themselves as such. Communist revolutions typically begin with, “I will give you freedom. I will free you from landlords and dictators. You will be free from the capitalist class. Each of you has rights.” However, since they are very far from the ideal of communism they pursue, they argue that a transitional dictatorship of the proletariat is inevitably necessary to reach their goal. That is how a socialist state emerges, implementing dictatorship with brazen confidence.
Lately, a similar trend has emerged within Christianity, with certain groups causing division in the name of so-called reform. They, too, began by promising freedom to church members, proclaiming, “We will give you freedom.” In pursuit of their goal, they labeled the existing order as a corrupt dictatorship, asserting that they would liberate people from this perceived oppression. A particular professor sent messages to pastors and ministers in our church, stating, “The candlelight revolution of Korea succeeded. The president of Korea was ousted. We need to ride this wave and bring change to the church. We need to oust the overseer.” This aligns with the same trend observed in socialist movements.
Socialists have promised freedom, but are these countries moving towards genuine freedom? They are gravely shifting towards totalitarianism, and their freedom is gradually being restricted. Consider the current situation in China. China has publicly declared nationwide that it does not allow individuals to have faith. It does not permit individuals to have faith in their hearts. On my way to work today, I received several letters from churches in China Detailing incidents where the police had come to their church, disallowing worship, dispersing the worship service, and relocating meetings. I have received such letters every day. This situation echoes how it was almost 30 years ago and is poised to become more severe with the establishment of internet surveillance—a trend known as digital imperialism.
Currently, we are witnessing a struggle between individualism and totalitarianism. Totalitarianism emerges from the trend that the devil dominates humanity on this earth, while individualism stems from the flow that God grants freedom to each soul, individuals encounter God in their journey of seeking truth, and individuals gather to form churches. In this way, two conflicting currents are clashing.
Even South Korea is positioned on the front line, and a war is erupting. The chairman of the Korean Christian Federation has caused a stir with statements calling for the president to resign. Due to the current situation in our country, all churches could be destroyed within a few years. The environment in which we can freely practice our faith as it is now is in danger of disappearing, and we need to be prepared. We could end up like China. It is a problematic situation.
However, many people are indifferent, engaging in games and watching movies. Meanwhile, we are gradually being controlled without realizing it. Instances of YouTube and other social media accounts being forcibly shut down are becoming more common. Freedom of speech is gradually disappearing, making it difficult to openly criticize the government. Our country is heading in that direction, and even in Christianity, those influenced by Marxism are moving in that direction.
They also keep distorting the facts. They have distorted the leaders who established and maintained our country’s liberal democracy into dictators. At the same time, they are accepting China’s influence, and ultimately, the freedom of the people is being violated. Now, we are experiencing firsthand that freedom is diminishing. For example, Chinese students studying here will be given citizenship if they graduate from a four-year university here. If they receive citizenship, what kind of ideology do you think these 1.5 million Chinese students will vote for? We are gradually becoming more influenced by China. Our politicians are leading us in that direction.
Even though I am working on Chinese missions, loving Chinese souls, and working for them, I am worried about China’s system itself. The system that dominates China is also entering our country, and it is very worrying that it continues like this. This is also affecting the church, so we should be awake now. It seems to promise freedom at first, but it is moving towards totalitarianism. If we are not cautious, the church may inadvertently advocate for totalitarianism. It is because they propagate, pretending to oppose dictatorship, but they are ultimately making totalitarianism.
Consequently, what is important is our awareness of that fact. We need to understand how individual freedom in our faith is crucial. Therefore, the principles of independent churches and the freedom of the church—these concepts are not understandable if we do not comprehend individual freedom. The reason why those who feel limited in understanding the principles of independent churches is because they did not experience the independence of the individual. These people tend to seek to be controlled by others, engage in collective actions, and establish church authority. If left unchecked, this can lead to such outcomes. So, we should not neglect the value that God respects our worth as individuals and treats us as such. We need to respect it.
Our motto should be to make others a source of blessing. In the context of our prayer for ‘may all nations be blessed,’ the primary focus is not on all nations but on ‘a soul.’ It is each soul in all nations. The change begins with the change in the soul of each individual, leading to the formation of churches. It is not the church as an entity but the change in individuals that initiates the change. Change as a church is impossible because there are many people in one church. When an individual is changed, God’s work is done through them. God chose Abraham and made a significant transformation, and He used Paul, various individuals, and even used Semuon to bring about this significant work. Therefore, we must be acutely aware of how God treats us as individuals and how valuable this is and strive to protect it.
Let us pray for God’s protection over our church and our country.
Father God, we thank You that even when the world treats us like mere slaves, You, on the contrary, treat us as Your own, valuing each soul so nobly. Help us recognize the worth of this nobility and guard it carefully. Moreover, help us to overcome oppression and attack with the truth, granting us the strength to these challenges. Assist us in protecting the individual freedom of souls and the independence of the church. Also, through our Berea Movement, we pray that God will receive our prayer to bless all nations and connect us with souls truly prepared, thirsty for the truth, and striving for the truth. Please assist in changing numerous souls within the church. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
Lunch prayer meeting, Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on June 24, 2019
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team