Part 8. The Words Written in the Bible
At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
I have been discussing mysticism in a row. This scene where Jesus faced temptation in the Gospel of Matthew illustrates very well the fact that the Son of God relied on the words recorded in the Bible. This is the moment when Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil, and it was during this time that the Holy Spirit took control. Jesus came to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit right after receiving the Holy Spirit. Then, what did Jesus do in the wilderness? He relied completely on the words recorded in the Bible. What was the most important thing as the Holy Spirit commenced His work? It was adhering to the words recorded in the Bible. Undoubtedly, this scene was a confrontation between Jesus and the devil, but it can also be seen from another perspective as a tension between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If Jesus had opted to make His own decisions and act in accordance with His desires, asserting His status as the Son of God, would not that have caused the Holy Spirit grief? However, at this critical moment, Jesus responded to the devil and firmly said, “For it is written!”
When communicating with different individuals, our manner of speaking naturally adapts. For example, imagine you are standing before a highly influential person who has invited you to speak. How would you conduct yourself? Without a doubt, you would aspire to perform impressively, right? You cannot afford to be as casual as you typically are; you must choose your words carefully to avoid facing reprimand. However, this scene was the first thing that occurred after the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus. How did Jesus speak in this situation? He had to perform well in front of the Holy Spirit, right? In such a situation, Jesus consistently declared, “It is written, it is written, it is written…” He gave the standard answer.
Jesus is the image of God, and the Holy Spirit came to bear witness to this truth. Since Jesus is the Son of God and the image of God, it would not have been peculiar for Him to act in accordance with His own desires. However, He willingly confined Himself to the words recorded in the Bible. These words were not directly inscribed by God’s own hand but were recorded by imperfect humans inspired by the Holy Spirit. If anyone contemplates the process of writing and editing the Bible, they might easily conclude that it was authored by people rather than being controlled by God. Nevertheless, Jesus said, “It is written in the scripture…” This shows that even God does not transcend the words recorded in the Bible, so how can we, as mere creations, exceed them? What I am discussing here is a review of what Semuon has frequently taught us. It is deeply grateful to gain a proper understanding of these words.
When Jesus completely obeyed the words recorded in the Bible, the devil had no more tricks up his sleeve and left. What is intriguing here is that the devil also employed the words recorded in the Bible to tempt Jesus. He said, “If you are the son of God, command these stones to become bread.” And in verse 6, he said, “If you are the son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written in scripture…” So, even the devil made use of God’s words. However, he explained and distorted them arbitrarily, cherry-picking and twisting them to suit his own needs. Hence, what sets the Son of God apart from the devil? Jesus comprehended the entire picture of God’s will and understood God’s intentions. Conversely, the devil merely used God’s words for his own purposes. Jesus obeyed these words to fulfill God’s will, while the devil maliciously used them.
Mysticism also draws from the Bible, but where does the problem arise? In other words, what distinguishes mysticism from a genuine understanding of God’s will? It boils down to whether one understands God’s will as a whole picture. When people seek to receive God’s word, those inclined toward mysticism frequently open the Bible and point to a random passage, believing that this is the word God has specifically given them. Disregarding the entire picture of God’s will, they cherry-pick a particular phrase and believe it to be the word given to them by God. They also forcefully apply to their advantage what they had memorized before. It is natural for previously learned verses to come to mind. However, whenever these words come into our mind, they should be aligned with the picture of God’s will that we have and consistently check where we stand by matching them. What are the characteristics of mysticism? Even if they may have experiences similar to ours, their interpretations are invariably different. They often claim, “God directly instructed me to do this.” This is their usual saying. However, only God’s Son is qualified to make statements because only He has seen God and is the One who is with God. Nevertheless, He refrained from doing so, instead emphasizing, “It is written in the scriptures, it is written in the scriptures…”
However, many Christians often find it easy to say, “Oh, God, tell me to do this.” This faith perspective can hinder their ability to rise above their own thoughts, eventually distorting the words of God. In essence, it can result in a growing disconnect between their thoughts and God’s words, ultimately steering them down the way of anthropocentrism, where they seek to have everything their own way. While this style of faith may seem beneficial in the short term, the reality is that such individuals cannot achieve anything in the long run. Their thoughts are easily swayed by various influences. Since they habitually twist their own thoughts that arise in their mind to match God’s thoughts, their beliefs constantly shift—today, it is one thing; tomorrow, it is another. And a year later, it is something else entirely. Moreover, when they encounter challenges, they lack the perseverance to see things through to the end. They always resort to excuses like, “Oh, God didn’t want me to do this,” or “Maybe this is not God’s will!” To truly fulfill a ministry or mission, one must be prepared to sustain it for decades, even a lifetime. However, those fixated on phrases such as “God has spoken to me” or “God moved me in this way” may easily give up whenever difficulties arise, concluding, “This must not be in alignment with God’s will.” Many of us may have observed individuals of this sort.
When I made the decision to evangelize in China, several others also made the same choice. My motivation for this decision was rooted in my desire to fulfill God’s words. During a summer camp, when the pastor spoke about the words, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” I experienced a profound change in my faith. Consequently, I no longer questioned whether these were God’s words meant for me but instead responded with active faith, saying, “I will fulfill God’s words!” From then on, I completely broke free from the passive attitude of wondering, “Is this God’s word for me?” or waiting for God to move me. Instead, I set clear goals, evaluated their alignment with God’s will, prayed, and sought evidence from God, saying, “God, if this is your will, give me such and such evidence!” I have received many miraculous signs as a result. Upon arriving in China, I encountered numerous difficulties and challenges. Many times, I felt the urge to give up and return home. I even questioned myself, wondering, “Is coming here truly God’s will for me? Am I doing well enough and being excellent enough?” These thoughts often troubled my heart. Nevertheless, because I embarked on this journey with a firm faith rooted in God’s words, I was able to persevere until the end.
However, those who were preparing to work with me in China did not share the same belief. Their starting point revolved around statements like, “God told me to do this,” so some of them abandoned their efforts halfway, excusing themselves with, “It’s God who doesn’t want me to go!” A few even gave up after six months of learning Chinese, saying, “Oh, this may not be God’s will.”
This attitude cannot sustain anything. Later, I encountered many individuals with a similar mindset. Consequently, they were not guided by God’s words but rather used God’s words to rationalize their desires. They ultimately not only failed to achieve their goals but also bore no fruit.
For example, when they visit Namsan Mountain, they might say, “God wants me to go to Namsan Mountain.” However, if it suddenly starts raining on the way and transportation becomes inconvenient, what will they think? Most of them will probably think, “Oh, this may not be God’s will…” A few might carry an umbrella, but if they encounter a serious car accident causing a traffic jam, they will once again fall into doubt, thinking, “Hmm, this may not be God’s will.”
But what about those who follow the words recorded in the Bible? Rain or traffic jams cannot stop their steps. If the road is flooded, they will find a way to swim across. In essence, they are determined to achieve their goals no matter what obstacles arise. That is the key difference. As a result, mystics accomplish nothing.
Why are the recorded words important? There were times when God spoke directly. An angel of Jehovah appeared and conveyed messages to the Israelites, and Moses personally heard from God. Jesus also directly spoke to His disciples. Then, why did God bother to record the words that He could have said directly? Because recording is crucial.
What is the greatest characteristic of recording? It is unchanging. Only by recording can words remain unalterable, allowing future generations to reaffirm them. Otherwise, in the process of oral transmission, there is inevitably some deterioration, eventually leading to deviation from the original message. Therefore, to prevent this deterioration, recording is necessary. Furthermore, people do not need to read these recorded words only once in their lifetime; they can repeatedly read and verify them. As a result, regardless of the era they live in, they can clearly understand the origins of these teachings and find the original starting point. It is because of the recorded words that we can return to the word of God. Without recorded words, once the kings of Israel in the Old Testament fell astray, there would be no chance for them to change their ways. However, one king discovered the Book of the Law on the temple wall during a temple repair. After reading it, he was deeply moved and repented before God, dressing in sackcloth and ashes. Then, he gathered all the people and made them read it. Thus, they were able to be changed and returned to the Word of God.
Subsequently, the Old Testament was lost, leaving them uncertain about its authenticity. However, the recent discovery of the “Dead Sea Scrolls at the Qumran Caves” provides evidence supporting the authenticity of the Old Testament. These scrolls affirm that the Old Testament is not fiction but a book that has been handed down from ancient times, and it has allowed us to believe it as God’s word.
Despite ongoing attempts to erase these recorded words, advancements in printing and the dedicated efforts of translators have preserved the Bible, and everyone can have the Bible.
That is why God intended to have this written down from the beginning. When He bestowed the Law, He gave the tablets of the Ten Commandments, inscribed with His own fingers, in addition to the dictates. The act of recording comes from God.
We have come to understand that recording does not originate on the earth and then is quoted to Heaven; rather, it reveals on the earth what already exists in Heaven, as taught by Semuon. In Heaven, there is the Book of Life, where the deeds of all individuals are recorded, and God will reward each person according to what they have done.
Hence, recording is vital to ensure that the words remain unalterable and continue to be disseminated. Even the Son of God acted in accordance with the recorded words, and as those who are united with Jesus, we cannot go beyond these recorded words. Therefore, as participants in the Berea Movement with a sense of mission, we should be very cautious when saying things like, “God told me to do it.” It is better to refrain from such statements. Numerous people still misunderstand this and fall into a complete deterioration of faith. It is more specific and accurate to say, “It is written in the Bible.” We should always use the statement, “It is written in the Bible.”
What is the Berea Movement? Regardless of our personal preferences, as long as it is recorded, we must follow the word. On the other hand, no matter how enticing or joyful something may seem, we should refrain from it unless it is recorded in the Bible. Let us pray that God will give us faith based on the words recorded in the Bible.
Father, please help us not to distort God’s word to suit our desires but to live a faith life according to the Picture of God’s Will as recorded in the Bible. Just as the Son of God did not transcend the recorded words, help us not to go beyond these words but enable us to fully understand the Picture of God’s Will contained in the words so that we may live in accordance with it. We pray in the name of Jesus! Amen!
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
Lunch prayer meeting, Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on June 18, 2019
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team