Part 1. The Berea Movement and Breaking Away from Mysticism
I have written an article titled “Reject Mysticism,” and the preface goes as follows. I will read it for you.
On the other hand, some believers who received the Holy Spirit and began using spiritual gifts often lacked the wisdom to use them properly or had misunderstandings about them, which led to unnecessary conflicts and troubles in the church. I once helped believers in a certain gathering to receive the Holy Spirit, but when I returned back a few months later, I found that some of the gatherings had split from the church they belonged to, and some people could not overcome the persecution and denied the fact that they had received the Holy Spirit.
The work of helping people to receive the Holy Spirit in China has gradually spread throughout the country through the influence of overseas missionaries and local Chinese missionaries who were deeply impacted. Therefore, compared to the past, it is now easy to hear, even in China, that “believers should receive the Holy Spirit” and “those who receive the Holy Spirit can speak in tongues.”
However, at the same time, there are other issues that stand out, and it is related to mysticism. Among those who have received the Holy Spirit, there is a tendency to prioritize personal spiritual experiences without a good understanding of the Bible. As a result, there are frequent reports of people surpassing the Bible, not knowing what is the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of demons.
Although unconditional rejection of the Holy Spirit and His power is indeed a problem, the lack of understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, leading to extreme mysticism, has now become a major problem.
Have you ever heard of the saying “gold dust falling from heaven”? During the crusade, gold dust would fall on people’s clothes or heads. You may not understand what this means, but there were many incidents at the time, and many people advocated for it. Since I have not personally been to the scene, I do not know much about it, but I have seen pictures or videos of gold dust falling after the crusade. Therefore, those people who saw the gold dust advocated, “As long as gold dust falls, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, it is not the work of the Holy Spirit.” Thus, people began to pursue the phenomenon of “gold dust falling.” At that time, many churches in China were fervently pursuing gold dust.
At the same time, there was also the phenomenon of “growing gold teeth.” I have not experienced this myself, so I do not know what it is, but after the crusade, some people did indeed grow gold teeth. So those people vigorously advocated, “This is the work of the Holy Spirit.” And they tried their best to popularize it.
The reason why we live such a spiritual life without succumbing to mysticism is that Semuon, who is an excellent teacher, has laid a solid foundation. This is a truly amazing, unique, and exceptional situation. Some people brought Semuon’s sermons and teachings to China, but they have not learned his characteristic. Moreover, because they received his sermons and teachings through other intermediaries, they have already changed and distorted them, and all of them have become mystics without exception. Therefore, almost all of the imitators of the Berea have fallen into mysticism.
It is the same in Korea. There is a church called “The Church of the Resurrection,” founded by Pastor Manyoung Han. Pastor Manyoung Han used to be an elder in our church, as well as the early president of the Berea Academy and the National Gugak (Korean Traditional Music) Center, and a professor at Seoul National University. When Semuon went overseas for missionary work, he did not ask other pastors to preach but designated Pastor Manyoung Han. This shows his exceptional ability. Later, he left the church because of some dissatisfaction and began an independent ministry. His church was also relatively big, which is the Church of the Resurrection. I used to hear a lot about that church, but he handed it over to his son, and now they have joined the Presbyterian denomination and have completely lost their original color.
When I was working at the company, I shared the gospel with my colleague who did not believe in Jesus. After experiencing many difficulties, she went to the United States to find her brother and met Jesus and received the Holy Spirit there. She contacted me to thank me. I really wanted her to come to our church, but her brother introduced her to the Church of the Resurrection. At that time, I thought that the church she joined was influenced by Sungrak Church, so I felt relieved. However, when she came to me for advice, she had already been in that church for a year or two. After listening to her, I realized that they do have serious mystical tendencies, as their behavior is completely like witches, and they have completely fallen into mysticism. They also learned by replicating the contents of the Berea Academy, received the Holy Spirit, and even cast out demons, but then turned into mysticism. Behaviors such as “God told me this and that” are common there, and they even take everything they see in their dreams and all sorts of nonsense as revelations from God. So, for them, what is important is not the word of God but their own feelings. At that time, I regretted why I did not force her to come to our church.
It is such a pity for us when people fall into mysticism. We finally made those who have not experienced the work of the Holy Spirit experience the Holy Spirit and receive gifts and power, and finally led them to the right path of faith. But because we did not continue to teach and nurture them, they became mystics. It is really a pity. Their current state is rather worse than before they have changed. They received the Holy Spirit, and each person also had their own experience, so they began to become very stubborn and believed in their own experiences. Thus, they ran towards mysticism, even slandering and denying the Holy Spirit, becoming arrogant and proud, and doing all sorts of strange things.
Especially in our country, this approach is very popular. Because people have mystical tendencies and do not know what the standard of faith is, they easily fall into them. Therefore, if we do not want our efforts to be in vain, we must not simply emphasize abilities or being filled with the Holy Spirit. We should not stay at this level but teach them well to watch out for mysticism.
The same thing is happening in China as well. It was frustrating for me in the early days of my missionary work because they did not acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit. I went through a lot of hardship to try and change them, but after reaching a certain point, they fell into mysticism, claiming to speak in tongues, prophesying, and advocating that it was the word of God. But in reality, it is not even the interpretation of tongues. It is just their own thoughts and ideas expressed while speaking in tongues. If you insist on considering it the interpretation of tongues and do it once or twice, you can get deceived. So they keep doing it, and eventually, they say things like, “God told me to do this or that.” That is how it happens. They are very similar. Our church restricts dialect in the interpretation of tongues, but it is even more necessary in China because of the strong mystical religiosity.
From what I know, the same applies to people with Catholic backgrounds in South America. Likewise, there is also a strong mystical color in countries where Catholicism has a strong presence, such as the Philippines. Under such circumstances, spreading the message of Berea will inevitably lead to conflicts with them, and mysticism will be a huge obstacle that we must eliminate completely. So we need to fix their ideas. However, there are currently no books specifically targeting this issue, but Semuon talked a lot about mysticism during his sermons. Therefore, I collected relevant quotes from Semuon’s sermons, not instantly, but rather by recording them bit by bit during my work on site. “This is really a problem, a big problem. We must teach and guide this aspect carefully…”
Like this, I organized the notes I had taken during my usual activities and translated them into Chinese. In 2007, I distributed them to my Chinese co-workers and received a positive response. They also began to teach about these topics in the church. I had originally planned to teach this topic during Chinese language worship, but I have not done so to this day, only teaching a part of it.
I believe it is necessary to translate these materials into various languages and provide them to those who need them. However, if only brief content is provided, it will lack persuasiveness. Therefore, please teach this message when you have the opportunity, either during worship or one-on-one teaching. If you teach this content during English, Spanish, Russian, and Japanese worship, record the audio, and then provide these recordings, it will be very helpful for many people to understand it.
I think that many who listen to this message will be able to find traces of mysticism within themselves, and this will have a significant impact on them. Let’s read the table of contents together today:
“Faith and Belief,” which is very basic content; the next one is “Religion and Faith”; the fourth section is “The Words Recorded in the Bible”; the fifth section is “True Israelites”; then there is “What Faith is Like”; and “Determinism,” which is the mistaken belief that God has predetermined everything. Next is “False Prophets.” In Zechariah, it states that when Jesus comes, he will abolish prophets. However, the Korean Bible adds the word “false,” so people say, “False prophets were abolished, but prophets were left.” But in reality, prophets no longer exist. In the New Testament, the word “prophet” is used, but it does not necessarily mean the same thing as before. And then, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit”; the Holy Spirit works according to the truth. After that, “the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” And also how to align one’s own thoughts with the will of God, saying, “God told me to do this.” These are the kinds of things that we need to know more about.
Whenever I have taught in this way, people were not easily convinced and opposed it. Moreover, they have their own theories and biblical references. Since I already know the references and sources supporting their argument, I will present a biblical foundation to them. At this point, they almost would be persuaded. This approach has been proven in my previous experiences.
Perhaps today, you may not feel the necessity of promoting this content very deeply. However, you will greatly recognize its importance in the future as you engage in our ministry. So please make good use of this material. Let’s pray now so that the people we serve do not fall into mysticism.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
Lunch prayer meeting, Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on June 4, 2019
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team