Part 7. Reason for not Agreeing with a Dissuasion

Stay there for several days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”
(Acts 21:10-14)

This is a scene where Paul, returning from his second missionary journey, bid farewell to the elders in Ephesus and headed towards Jerusalem. At that time, a prophet named Agabus arrived from Judea. He took off Paul’s belt and bound his own hands and feet with it, saying, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way, the Jewish in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” Perhaps Agabus saw a vision during prayer or was inspired in some special way, leading him to convey this message to Paul. Upon hearing this, Paul’s followers tried to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem.

Some might interpret this verse to mean that “the Holy Spirit said not to go,” but it is an exaggeration. The Holy Spirit did not explicitly prohibit going; rather, He foretold what would occur. However, how did people react to this? They said, “You shouldn’t go.” What led them to this conclusion? Those who heard Agabus’ prophecy about Paul facing persecution in Jerusalem dissuaded him from going. Yet, there is a significant distinction between this prophesy and their advice. It may seem obvious, but it is actually quite different: the statement “If you go there, you will be bound and handed over to the Gentiles,” should not be equated with “Don’t go.” While some might assume they mean the same thing, actually, they are not. If Paul had genuinely refrained from going to Jerusalem due to this prediction, many would naturally assume that Agabus intended for Paul not to go. However, Paul did not understand it in that manner and disregarded their advice. What caused people to believe that Paul should not go? They received the same information, but their perspectives were different. Those vessels are completely distinct. Paul’s vessel differs significantly from others.

The situation that Paul might face was extremely difficult and painful for those around him, so they worried about Paul and felt sympathy for him. However, those who felt sorry for Paul lacked faith. Likewise, those who feel pity for Semoun amidst his current persecution also lack faith. Nobody has the right to pity Semoun. That is not the perspective one should have regarding God’s worker. When Jesus carried the cross on His way to be crucified, people were mourning and weeping for Him. Jesus must have found this scene bewildering and speechless. “Who am I suffering for now? Are you crying for me? I am enduring this suffering on your behalf out of compassion, yet you are pitying me…” Their actions left Jesus feeling deeply frustrated. However, to human eyes, the scene of Jesus carrying the cross appeared pitiful and tragic. Therefore, we can discern whether someone is a fleshly person or a spiritual person in situations like this. Since we have received the Holy Spirit and come to know the truth, we should strive to be a spiritual person.

What was Paul’s response to their advice? He said, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Is there a necessity to pity and cry for someone who already possesses such determination? Just as those who were mourning for Jesus made Him feel absurd, Paul must have experienced a similar sentiment at that moment. From a human perspective, he should comfort those people and say, “Oh, okay, I’ll listen to you and not go.” However, that was not the point.

From a human-centered perspective, it might seem like Paul disregarded the Holy Spirit’s warning, even though the Holy Spirit clearly warned him. However, this explanation is solely based on a human standpoint. Despite receiving a revelation from the Holy Spirit, there exists a higher purpose—God’s will. Therefore, no matter what the Holy Spirit reveals, we must also act according to the higher value, which is God’s will. Jesus came to the earth, preached the Gospel, endured persecution and was eventually killed. After Jesus was resurrected from the dead, He commanded His disciples not only to suffer persecution with Him but also to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Thus, from Paul’s perspective, this represented a great opportunity. This was an excellent opportunity. If he was captured in Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles, it would provide the opportunity to go to Rome. Moreover, facing trial before the Roman emperor, Caesar, would present another significant opportunity. However, those influenced by human perspectives would try to persuade Paul, pity him, and do whatever it took to save him, even resorting to bribery. Nonetheless, Paul was arrested in accordance with God’s will.

So, a certain level of calm and rational thinking is necessary at this point. This dispassionateness should not only apply to yourself but also to others. That is why in verse 14, it is said, “When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’” Indeed, the highest priority is the will of the Lord.

In the past, when many churches received such news from abroad, they would often rush to secure the release of those who were detained. They would advertise widely, request everyone to pray together, and gather funds. Typically, around $3,000 to $4,000 was required to secure the release of a single arrested individual. In reality, this only reduced their imprisonment from a week to just three days, and that is all. Even our church used to adopt this approach.

However, this has evolved into a recurring pattern for them. Whenever any issue arises, they shift the responsibility to the mother church. This pattern has become deeply ingrained not only for them, but even the police have grown accustomed to it. When they arrest Christians, they can expect around $3,000. So, why wouldn’t they keep arresting them? Strangely enough, certain churches were consistently targeted. They have refrained from using the name “Berea” and have maintained minimal communication with us to ensure safety. They have operated cautiously, saying, “It’s too dangerous. Don’t contact us!” However, they were still targeted by the police. Conversely, some churches have continued to operate under the name “Berea” yet have remained untouched by the police. This eventually led to rumors circulating about me that pastor Lee had been reported to the police. It caused me a considerable amount of distress.

Anyway, what has happened to those who are now? They have completely severed connection with us. They were merely using Sungrak Church as a resource hub for their own financial gain, behaving in a self-centered manner. They believed they were the center of the world, and thus, everything existed for their benefit. Even Sungrak Church was perceived as nothing more than a means to serve them. With such a mindset, they boldly declared, “We can do the Berea movement in China by ourselves. Don’t interfere!”

Their education has been problematic from the beginning, shaping them into who they are today. Then, who bears responsibility for that? The responsibility for a misbehaving child lies not with the child but with the parents. Therefore, I had warned them that this problem would arise, but they rejected it. Instead, they created a division between themselves and me, asking, “Why do you hate us? Why don’t you support us?” In this way, the relationship eventually became strained. However, I never held any hatred towards them, and my approach has been consistently applied to all. Presently, more than a hundred of Berea churches in China have flourished by adhering to our principles.

When leaders of the Berea churches get caught, they reach out to us. Honestly, within my human mindset, I want to rush to them and help them, but I still adhere to the established principles. What did Paul just say? “I’m ready to die,” he said. Hence, I teach them in the same way based on these principles, “While incarcerated, you should pray diligently and preach the Gospel to those who are imprisoned. While you’re in prison, your church members will be awake and pray fervently, leading to your church’s revival. Moreover, how can you be certain that you won’t have the opportunity to preach the Gospel to the police? So, pray earnestly while you’re inside and wait patiently! Even if you were to endure beating or face death there, it would still hold value. The blood you shed will pave the way for the growth of the church in that area.” You know, the church has grown by drinking blood. Just as plants grow through the water, the church flourished through the shedding of blood. The rapid growth of the Korean church is attributed to the bloodshed of missionaries. Thus, I instruct them, “Your bloodshed will bring growth to the church, so be prepared to die generously.”

Although I conveyed the truth with genuine sincerity, some individuals could not accept it and eventually were tempted, leading them to depart from our midst. Nevertheless, I never altered my words to retain them, nor did I say, “Oh, no, no, I misspoke…” Even so, there are still individuals who choose to continue following me. In the long run, we can observe that the authenticity of a person’s beliefs becomes evident. Most people might think, “Oh, now that we’re all caught, how can he say such a cruel thing. It really hurts to listen!” and end up falling back and leaving. But I have hardly encountered anyone with such reactions, and those instances are very few. Those who have been nurtured gradually by the words remain unshaken. While some people may have initial doubts about me, my consistent teachings and actions over the years have alleviated those doubts. Furthermore, since they know I have chosen that path deliberately, they do not perceive my words as mere excuses; rather, they accept them as guidance based on the Picture of God’s Will. Some have chosen to adhere to our guidance in this manner, while others choose not to. Then, what happens to them after time passes? Remarkably, those who choose to follow often experience positive outcomes, whereas those who disobey tend to face unfavorable consequences.

Lately, the Chinese government has been forcibly dismantling churches and ordering the closure of churches. The Christian Three-Self Church has repeatedly emphasized: “As long as you abandon the name ‘Berea’ and join the Christian Three-Self Church, you will be safe.” Consequently, some churches have indeed joined them. When certain church leaders sought counsel from me on this matter, I advised them, “Once you join the Christian Three-Self Church, you are submitting to their authority. This contradicts our faith. As Christians, we serve only one master. How can we serve two masters? That’s not going to work. Therefore, if you want to keep your faith, you should not belong to them!” Most churches accepted this advice, but a few still choose to go their own way. What happened to them? In the present times, the government is eliminating churches, allowing only one to remain in each region. Surprisingly, the first targets of this policy were the churches that had been legalized. This is because the government had already collected information about these churches, so they were eliminated first. What consequences have they faced in the end? Since they have lost their spiritual purity before God and cannot receive any reports from the Chinese government, they are neither here nor there. How unfortunate is this?

In a particular movie, there is a storyline where a man betrays his organization and sells his boss out to side with the enemy. Unfortunately, the enemy ends up killing this person because they cannot trust a betrayer. How pitiful is this man? He became a meaningless man completely abandoned by both sides. At the very least, one should strive to be someone who is firmly remembered by one side, shouldn’t they? Whether it is being remembered by the state or being remembered in heaven, one should aim to be remembered by at least one side.

In order to make the right decisions, we must transcend above factors like personal attachments, emotions, and affections. Sometimes, even feelings of sorriness must be overcome, along with certain relationships. It is true that we cannot hastily make decisions in these dilemmas, but at the very least, we should remember that we belong to the office of the commander-in-chief. While we may not always fully live up to this role, we have been working in that direction. As being part of the general headquarters, we must maintain a broader view of the situation, not allowing ourselves to be emotionally affected when a few individuals are lost in the midst of the battle. Otherwise, we cannot lead the entire army to victory. Therefore, we have to be tough, even when it is difficult. That does not mean I reject people’s requests completely. Most of the time, I respond with the awareness that it could be God’s calling when someone requests help. However, we should adhere to this foundational principle.

Just 20 minutes ago, I received a letter from a Chinese pastor. Let me read it to you.
Here it says, “Dear Senior Overseer Ki-Dong Kim, on your birthday, I wish you the sincerest blessing! Thank you for always feeding us with the word of God. The Berea Movement began with you, and through you, we have come to understand the truth and the Picture of God’s Will. You have held and practiced the truth throughout your life, and today, Jesus Christ continues to work through you. As we receive this word, we experience the great power of the Holy Spirit within us. Despite enduring significant persecution due to this word, you have remained steadfast. Thus, we witness that truth and persecution go hand in hand. Since we have grown through your teachings, we are prepared to bravely face all difficulties under the name Berea. We have held onto the name Berea since our church was founded, and it is a source of great pride for us. Just yesterday, Chinese public security from the China Religious Bureau raided our church, disrupted our worship service, and confiscated a box of Berea books and related materials.”

It is indeed regrettable, but it is an unavoidable factor. However, these challenges cannot hinder or negatively affect our ministry.

Let me read it continuously, “They took me, my wife, and a few of my co-workers to the police station for questioning and then released us within a few hours. We did not deny the name Berea. They ordered us to worship in the state-recognized chapel and register with the religious department. In the meantime, a person in charge at the religious bureau whispered to me, “Why are you using the name Berea? As long as you do not use that name, everything will be fine.” However, from the moment we first established our church, we decided to bear the glory and persecution of the Berea Movement together. Therefore, we thank the Lord Jesus for granting us the opportunity to share the blessing with the Berea Movement. Because Jesus Christ is with us, we are not afraid, and we are willing to suffer all kinds of hardships. I hope that more souls will hear this precious word. I express our gratitude to the Overseer and the mother church for continuously nurturing us with these words. Although our church is still small, our journey aligns with that of Jesus, forefathers of faith, and you. Therefore, we must also move forward courageously.

I pray you and your wife are in good health and hope you can accept our small gift. I also send greetings to Overseer Sung-Hyun Kim, Pastor Ki-Taek Lee and all the co-workers.”

How wonderful it is to have such a dedicated group of people who persist in the Berea Movement! There is no need to fear at all, no matter how severe the persecution may be. We will remain faithful until the end. Even if everything else is taken away, including our lives, our faith cannot be taken away, and therefore, there is nothing to fear. Our hearts are filled with profound peace. However, the root of the lack of peace lies in an attachment to things that can be taken away, eventually leading to failure.

In addition, just an hour ago, I received a letter from another pastor stating, “The police came and took all the church supplies. And they have also prohibited us from gathering again. What should we do?” What kind of restrictions can hinder our worship? We simply need to obey the commandments of Jesus Christ. If we cannot gather in our usual place, we can assemble elsewhere in the name of Jesus, even in the park or on the street. Even those playing chess on the street can continue without hindrance. What is the issue? Are you concerned about the cold weather outside? Imagine how beautiful and Holy Spirit-filled our worship service will be in the cold weather. Think of the Guri Worship Center of Sungrak Church, where believers worship under umbrellas when it rains. They have faced such conditions for a long time. We can do the same. Who can take away our faith? If the police apprehend us, we simply get caught, so what is the big deal? Rather, it provides an opportunity for evangelism to them. Instead of worrying about finding solutions and solving problems, we must act in accordance with the principles.

When we prioritize God’s will above all else, we will remain steadfast, regardless of what others say they have seen or heard. We have a clear understanding of our direction. We are not wandering aimlessly but fully aware of our path. Therefore, no matter what others say, we continue forward.Through years of counseling and teachings, those who have wholeheartedly followed these words have not only persevered but have also steadily grown.

In the future, we will encounter many individuals, each with their own personal problems. Their difficult situations are indeed pitiful, but these problems are not something we can directly assume responsibility for. Our role is to assist them in finding solutions to their problems independently. When some people seek my help under God’s guidance, I do not intentionally reject or avoid them. However, for the most part, I guide them in the right direction to take responsibility for their own situation. Our objective is not to be responsible for their problems but to empower them to address those issues themselves. Some pastors request us to hold revival meetings in their churches to help them grow. Instead of using that approach, I advise them to let this pastor grow first, even if it progresses slowly. It may take around four years, but then the church will truly experience long-lasting growth. That is what we need to do.

Let us pray to God that we can adapt and lead in accordance with these great principles. We are individuals working in the commander-in-chief office. Let us pray together for wisdom in our ministry.

Thank you, Father, for letting us know the Picture of God’s Will. You have revealed us Your strategy as the commander-in-chief. Please help us to work with a broad vision, a profound sense of responsibility, and greater wisdom as those who know Your secret. Often, we find ourselves lacking the wisdom to make decisions when faced with challenging situations. Give us Your wisdom and lead us by the Holy Spirit so that we may deal with all things according to Your will. At the same time, help us not to neglect those who come to us but rather treat them with respect and be honest before You. We pray in the name of Jesus! Amen!

Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
Lunch prayer meeting, Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on June 17, 2019
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team