Taking after one’s God (2 Peter 1:2-4)
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Pe 1:2-4)
Our faith life is also called a spiritual life. The word spirit means that it is an everlasting being. Everything in this world is fading away but there are beings which exist eternally. In most cases, those beings cannot be seen with our eyes and thus people think they do not exist. However, they do exist. Just as air can’t be seen yet is essential to our existence, there are beings which are eternal and undeniable. They are called spirit.
And similarly, there is the word of god, which refers to spirits that have a personality. Hence even though people may not attend church, when they do ancestral rites, they write on the ‘jibang’ (memorial paper) “學生府君神位”(Jishang fu jun shen wei) which means a god with a personality. In this world there are many spiritual beings with a personality, namely gods. Though they are invisible to the eye, they are existential and influence humans very closely. Even if a person says he wants to have nothing to do with gods, that is actually not possible. When shamans (spiritists) become possessed, it is not because they wanted to be. Because they get sick and are afraid of dying, they have no choice but to accept being possessed. Those gods unilaterally approach a person to live with him or her. They come unilaterally and say, “I want to use you!” It would be great if the person could drive them out but since they can’t, they just surrender and live with those gods.
But even that depends on what god it is. There are various types of gods. They all have different personalities too. Therefore, it is important that you are close to a god that has a good nature, has many possessions, is happy and virtuous. And that is the god you can meet at church. Today is Christmas. But which of the many gods in this world sacrifices himself to bring good to humans? Yet the god I am trying to introduce you to, is such a god who sacrificed himself in order to deliver man that was sunk in despair. And why did he do that? That is His nature. Every god has a different personality.
I know this person who is the CEO of a company and his wife. Both of them I got to know when I was in another country for mission work. Originally, they were running a small company in Korea. His company produced plaster joint tape. This a tape that is used on new fridges to prevent the doors from opening. It was exclusively produced by the US company 3M but about 20-30 years ago, our country started to manufacture it. And his business had developed and manufactured it. The CEO and his wife went through many hardships for about 10 years in order to manufacture that product. They went through a lot of trial and error and mistakes, so it was very tough for them. But once they got it, it was a huge success.
Because they were short of workers, they called their relatives to work for them and their business grew. However, many of their relatives had their own gods that they worshipped. And those relatives suggested to the CEO and his wife that they should perform gosa (offering sacrifice to spirits). The CEO and his wife were attending church already. So at first, they refused to do gosa but since all of their relatives insisted that they ought to, the CEO decided, “Okay, we will do gosa”. As he continued to do that, he started not going to church and his heart was swayed. One day, he went to see a fortuneteller. He wanted to find out the forecast for his business. But the fortuneteller said to him, “There is someone in your family’s business who is going to bring your business to ruin. If you don’t get rid of that person, your business will go under!” Can you guess who that person was? His wife! “Unless you divorce her, your business will go under very soon!” The fortuneteller told him. So, who was telling him these things? It was the spirit (god) that was inside the fortuneteller. Or it could possibly be the god (spirit) that was with or inside the CEO and giving him a hard time.
Anyway, the point was that he had to separate from his wife. But it wasn’t an easy decision to make. He felt guilty because he knew what hardship she had been through. Yet people around him couldn’t wait. His relatives were telling him, “You need to get a divorce quickly! Do you want to see your business collapse?” And in the end, he requested a divorce from his wife. How do you think his wife felt? She was already past middle age and physically very exhausted and her face became wrinkled over the years. Yet when things seemed to be getting better for them, he asked her for a divorce. So, she refused saying, “No, I will not have a divorce!”
She endured for a year. But after 1 year one of them became ill. Who do you think got ill? Do you think it was the CEO or his wife? We probably want it to be the CEO. But because he was asking for a divorce, how upset and grieved would she have felt? She had to put up with that and endure her heartache and it led to a physical illness and she was wrecked. She felt like she would die first if she kept going like that, so she decided to grant her husband’s wish and divorced him. And in return she was paid a large amount of spousal support payment (alimony) and with that money, what she did was to enroll in a seminary. After graduating, she went to Russia, and became a missionary. God is using her powerfully right now.
There is something we can learn from this example. What was that god (spirit) like, the one that the CEO or the fortuneteller was in close relationship with? That god said, “I will bless you! I’ll make your business great! But you have to divorce that woman!” That is not virtuous, is it? That is so base and despicable isn’t it? There is no mercy. That is the characteristic of that god. Whatever that god might be, that is a god with a foul character. When he got acquainted with that god, what happened to the CEO? He became just as foul and did what certainly deserves to be cursed.
In this way, we start to take after whichever god we become closely acquainted with. We take after their personality and even walk in a path of life similar to them. If that god was cursed and ended up somewhere horrible, then the person who was close to that god may find himself in the same position. So which god we become close to is a very critical matter. Depending on which god we become familiar with, we could even develop a sickness. When a person drinks heavily, people might say, “What has gotten into you?” Why do you think unbelievers say that? They do sense something to some degree. The reason a person drinks alcohol heavily is because of the works of an alcoholic demon. The gods (spirits) enter a person that has similarities to themselves. And make their conditions worse. So, an alcoholic demon will go into a person who likes drinking and thus cause them to drink more. An adulterous demon goes into a person who is adulterous to make them even more adulterous.
However, our God, the God whom we are meeting at church, what is He like? He can be described in many ways. In the Scripture we read today, it says, “Him (God) who called us by glory and virtue”. He is a God full of glory. Glory refers to all the great things that this God possesses. And that cannot be expressed in one word. Glory is the whole summation of all that which is wonderful and good.
Not only did He call us by His glory, it also says that He called us by His virtue. Virtue! Virtue is wanting to share if there is anything good. That is what our God is like. That which is good that He possesses, meaning life. This life is everlasting life. Everlasting life. Then there is joy, and blessings, happiness and an abundance of everything. He wishes to share all these things with us. He is full of virtue. He constantly wants to pour out what He has. On whom? Not only to those that know Him but more people, even to those that don’t know Him. He even wants to share with the people that want to do evil to Him. This is the nature of our God. Whenever I have something good, the first thing that comes to mind is my family. Do you think of your father first or your children? It rightly should be our fathers but since I became a parent myself, it’s actually my children that come to mind first. And then my father. And after that, the people around me. But that’s it. I don’t really have any desire to share it with people that hate me. But this God wants to share everything good which He has with those that don’t even like Him. He wants them to share in His happiness.
This is the nature of our God. Hence people like us came to church and met this God, received those good things from this God, and have come to love this God. Therefore, we do not worship this God out of fear. We have received so much from this God and love Him so much that we worship Him like so. For people that don’t know Him yet, it seems so difficult to come every Lord’s Day and worship Him. However, once you start having fellowship with Him, you will realize that there is so much to receive from Him. Therefore, you will experience that fellowship with Him and worshipping Him is certainly not a difficulty, but the greatest joy that this world can ever give us.
While you are living in this world, don’t get acquainted with just any god but with that God who gave up His Son to save us, the sinners. Many people die and others don’t know where their souls are scattered about. Yet we will all resurrect, in the likeness of Jesus who resurrected and went up to heaven.
As I said, our God can be expressed in various ways but we can also say, “God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead!” 2000 years ago, Jesus died but someone brought Him to life. A certain invisible being raised Him to life and that is the God whom we believe in now. If we have this faith, then when the time comes, He will also raise us from the dead, and take us to be with Him where He is.
Not only is He the god of virtue; He is also the god of power. Although it has been thousands of years, He is still doing His work and keeping His promise. The gods of this world can’t keep their promises. They don’t have the power to do that. Yet our God is so different from them. He is full of mercy. I hope you will also meet this God, and take Him to be your companion who is always with you, your co-worker and your protector who is always there to protect you. I bless you in Jesus’ name. I’ll pray.
God our Father, help everyone here to receive in the One who raised Jesus Christ from the dead as their own God and love Him and worship Him. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center