The Condition of Faith (Mark 1:14-15)

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

(Mark 1:14-15)

The passage we just read speaks about the beginning of the gospel. The words that Jesus spoke are here and He said that since the kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the gospel.

There are many gods in the world. Some people misunderstand God’s word when He says, “You shall have no other gods beside Me”, thinking that He means there is only one God and no other gods in the world. However, that’s not true. What He means by those words is this: “Since there are so many gods, do not take any one of them and worship it as your god. Have only Me as your only God and worship Me alone.” There are lots of men in the world, right? It’s similar to a husband demanding his wife not to have any other man in her life but him. He says this because there are so many men.

In the same way there are many gods in the world. The problem is that each of these gods has different personalities, so you cannot simply choose to reject or welcome them, draw near or keep away from them according to your desire. This is the same with people. Some individuals will stay away from you if you tell them, “Don’t come close to me!” They won’t even appear in front of you if you say, “Never show yourself before my eyes again!” On the other hand, there are those who constantly follow you, even if you told them never to appear in front of you anymore. Such people can be a source of distress. Some people even chase you demanding money, and they might even threaten you and give you a hard time.

The same applies to gods. While some gods may retreat when you express your dislike for them, others do not care whether you like or reject them; they persistently come close and try to intervene in your life. The problem here is that people are visible to our eyes, but gods are not. That’s why people often don’t know whether a god has come close to them or not. They approach you secretly.

They come secretly, but how close do they get? They don’t just linger around you; some of these gods attempt to enter people’s bodies. Among the many gods, some feel comfortable when residing within a person’s body. Therefore, they look for an opportunity and enter when they can. We refer to these gods as demons. Even in the Bible which we read at church; the word ‘demon’ appears frequently. The characteristic of demons is their desire to enter people’s bodies. Do you know why they do that?

Demons originally had their own bodies. Because they once had physical bodies, after losing their own bodies, which is to say, after they die, they wish to go into another body, even if it’s not their own. This is how they find comfort. Without a body, they experience distress, so they seek to enter another person’s body and use it.

What changes occur when a demon goes into a person? The demon’s characteristics begin to manifest in that person. Do you remember the saying in Korea, ‘drunk demon’? People probably said that as a joke. However, this expression emerged from the many experiences our ancestors accumulated over the years. In reality, when a person who was an alcoholic die and becomes a demon, what happens if that demon enters a living person? Suddenly, that person starts drinking again. You might wonder, “Didn’t he quit drinking after believing in Jesus?” But when an alcoholic demon, or one that used to drink heavily goes into even a believer, he begins to reach for the bottle just like he used to.

In another instance, a person died of cancer and became a demon. If that demon enters another person, it might also trigger the development of cancer in that individual. They may undergo surgery, but the demon still remains within them. What happens next? After a few years, they may experience recurrence since the demon is still inside him. The attributes of the demon manifests in the person it possesses.

We often see a common phenomenon in our surroundings. For example, let’s consider a situation where a person’s grandfather passed away from liver cancer. However, not long after that, his uncle develops liver cancer and eventually dies as a result. Subsequently, the son of the uncles also falls victim to liver cancer. So what happened is that the demon that first got liver cancer and died, went into his descendants and caused the same kind of disease in them. People call this hereditary disease, saying, “That family has a history of liver cancer”. However, from a spiritual point of view, it is the demon that goes into the family members and causes the disease to recur. Another example is, some people keep having suicidal thoughts. They even attempt hanging themselves several times. However, it turns out that one of their parents had previously taken their own life by hanging.

What should we do about those demons? In the world, people simply endure such suffering and eventually pass away. However, thankfully, those who believe in Jesus are no longer afraid of demons. In the past, there was fear of demons, but now, believers are unafraid because the Son of God has made a promise to them and bestowed upon them the authority.

In Mark 16:17, the words of Jesus are written: “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons”. Among the signs that Jesus promised to those who believe in Him, the first one mentioned is the ability to cast out demons. Therefore, believers in Jesus are no longer afraid of the attacks of these demons. Instead, it is the demons who are now afraid of the believers in Jesus.

Even I used to be afraid of demons until I believed in Jesus. However, I no longer fear them. In the past, whether as a child or as an adult, I would feel my hairs stand on end when I went to a dark place at night. But since I put my faith in Jesus, I am no longer afraid, even when I find myself in a dark place. Instead, it’s the demons who would fear me.

Furthermore, we drive out the demons from the people they tormented, as in the examples I just talked about. This is not something that only I can do, but anyone who believes can do the same. So, we drive out the demon that had liver cancer. Then what do you think would happen? The person is healed of liver cancer. Or after the demon has been cast out, the conditions of the liver cancer might still remain in the person. Such conditions can be healed through prayer or they can be treated with medication. However, if the demon is not cast out, the cancer is bound to recur regardless of the treatments the person goes through, whether that is medication or surgery. Once the demon is driven out, then it doesn’t matter what form of treatment the person receives thereafter, as long as the demon is driven out.

My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer about ten or so years ago. I received a phone call while I was in my office of the news that my mother had colon cancer. So, I went to see her after I finished work that evening. Both my mother and father were there. They both attend church. They attend our church. But I found them sitting there, looking blank. So, I said this to my mother and father, “You believe in Jesus, which means you don’t need to be so weak. If you’ve been diagnosed with colon cancer, you should be thinking about praying to God for healing. Why are you both looking so blank?”

I then encouraged her to repent. I asked her to repent for all the pain she had, any resentment she had towards God, and all the worldly worries and anxieties that had accumulated within her. As she repented, I learned about things I had never known before. A few years prior to her diagnosis, she had experienced a something that had caused enormous heartache and distress that I was unaware of. She had suffered greatly because of it. These factors became the cause for the demon to enter her and eventually cause colon cancer.

So, after I explained these things to her, I had my mother stand up. And with all my strength, I cursed the demon. Usually, when I cast out demons, I do so gently, saying, “Demon get out!” However, given my mother’s sickness with colon cancer, I couldn’t do it very gently. On that day, it felt like the entire apartment was about to shake apart. Filled with anger, I shouted “you, dirty demon!” so loudly that it even startled my father, who was standing nearby.

When I yelled, “Demon!” the demon that was inside my mother’s body manifested. Who would’ve thought? My mother had not had such a powerful experience like that before. Her body started to shake all over and she cried, “Ah! Ah! Ah” It wasn’t my mother. It was the demon inside her. I asked, “Why did you go into her?” The demon said it came to kill. It’s obvious. Demons come in to kill. “When did you come into her?” “When she was upset. When she was in distress”. In this way, being upset and worried is not good. If God is with you, why should you be upset and worried. You just need to pray.

So, in the end, when I cursed the demon, commanding it to “Get out!” my mother fell backwards. On the same day she had received her cancer diagnosis, the demon left her. We proceeded to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. Thankfully, when I turned around, I noticed that my older sister had come inside. She was not going to church at the time, and despite previous attempts to share the Gospel with her, she hadn’t received the Gospel. However, she had witnessed the moment the demon was driven out. So, I called her over and said, “Come here. Did you see that? Demons do exist! This is how the spirits of unbelievers become like this! Who would want to become possessed by a demon?’ She replied, ‘No!” I continued, “You saw it, right? Even cancer was brought on by the demon! You heard the demon say that it came in to kill right? Do you want to become a demon? Do you want to be a demon and later go into your kids and kill them?” “No!” I asked, “Then, what do you want to do?” She replied, “I want to believe in Jesus!”

So, following that, my sister accepted Jesus and prayed for the Holy Spirit right then and there. She prayed that since God had forgiven her sins, the Spirit of God would come upon her instead of the demon. That evening, she began speaking in tongues. In this way, the demon came into our household with the intent to kill but ended up helping us. My sister also came to believe in Jesus from that day on. She has been leading her faith life in our church ever since. And as my father witnessed the whole happening, his once unpassionate faith became fervent.

What do you think happened to my mother after that? Initially, she was told she had to wait 6 months to get checked up at a major hospital. She had to wait 6 months to get an examination. For those who don’t believe, cancer might worsen during that time, leading to serious consequences. How could one possibly wait 6 months when you found out that you have cancer? Each day would feel like an eternity. So I said to her, “Since we cast out the demon, if you still wish to have surgery, why not go to the nearest general hospital? She decided to go to the closest hospital, just a 15 – minute drive from our home in a satellite town. Remarkably, she was able to undergo surgery there without any prolonged waiting, and this took place merely a week later. And what is more, we found out that the hospital was a Christian hospital thankfully. The surgeons prayed before the operation. After her discharge, I visited her a month later, and to our amazement, she was able to do everything as normal, cooking and cleaning even though she had a major surgery. It has now been more than ten years, and she has not experienced a cancer anymore.

So, in her later years, her faith life was on fire, and even in her seventies, she continues to serve as a leader in her worship center. Our church experienced many significant events this year, and she played a big role in protecting the worship center in her area. We are so thankful about it. In this way, though demons attempt to kill, what God bestows upon us is true happiness. This happiness is eternal happiness. It is not a momentary happiness but everlasting.

God has invited us to His kingdom. While there are many gods in the world, who is the god whom we worship, that is, the One who raised Jesus Christ from the dead? He is the Almighty God. Moreover, He is the Creator God who created all things and even you. That’s the God whom you believe in. He is not one of those gods that come to you with cancer nor one that makes you drink alcohol. He is not a created god. He is the God who created all things, and today He comes to us, inviting us to His kingdom. That is why we are seeking to enter that kingdom.

Even while we are on this Earth, God is with us and helps us. However, what we experience here is just the tip of the iceberg. The kingdom where God wants to take us into is an eternal kingdom. This world will one day disappear. Even if a nuclear bomb doesn’t explode, the world will eventually disappear. However, the eternal kingdom which God has prepared will exist forever. But it remains unseen to our eyes.

However, one day we will enter that kingdom. Just as we meet people, shake hands, pick up objects, and eat fruits in our daily lives, we will do the same in that kingdom. Everything that exists in that kingdom will allow us to touch, hear and eat. The key difference is that it will be everlasting, unlike our earthly existence. God desires us to share in His happiness and joy which He has in that kingdom. Even now, as a foretaste of that, He is bestowing those things to us.

By believing in Jesus, that is, by hearing the gospel what you want to gain are these things. It’s not just about the things of the earth like, “I want to make more money” or “I want to be comforted in my heart”. We are not seeking merely those things, rather, we are privileged to partake in the eternal happiness bestowed by God.

However, there is a condition, which is like the first step in obtaining all these things, and it is of utmost importance. That condition is repentance. No matter how wonderful things God intends to bestow upon us, and no matter how numerous they may be, they hold little value if we are unable to accept them. To receive them. we must be able to do so, and the essential requirement for this is repentance.

In reality, believing in Jesus, leading a faith life, and entering heaven can be easy, yet in another sense, it is very difficult. Why it that? Because faith cannot be obtained through worldly knowledge and methods. Faith is a gift given by God, and it is impossible for us to possess it solely through our own understanding and knowledge.

Here is a certain man. His appearance may seem humble. He is a young man from the town of Nazareth, around thirty years of age. Every day this man takes 12 others with him, going around healing sick people. But he doesn’t appear to have a regular job nor take a bath that often. He does seem to do good things but from afar, something is weird about him and his group. Nevertheless, our faith invites us to see him as the Almighty God.

Is it easy to do? How can we equally treat a man we can see as the Almighty God? But that’s what our faith is about. It certainly isn’t easy. That is why, although people had attended church, later we may find some of them manifesting as demons in other people. Those people didn’t have true faith. They may appear to believe in Jesus, but true faith is not acquired so easily. Just because one attends church does not guarantee that one’s faith is truly rooted. Even as we engage in our faith journey within the church, there is no assurance that faith has genuinely come into our hearts. In many ways, it is really challenging.

However, when we follow God’s way, it becomes very easy. What is the first step in God’s way? It is repentance. Repentance is what only the miserable beings in this world can do. People that are rather well-off, who are laid back and feel happy won’t repent. The person who is in despair in this world, someone who is weeping because he has not found anything that can ever satisfy him, the one who is not satisfied despite having wealth or someone to love him, someone who is never happy despite the advancement of modern life, a person who feels empty and never happy in their hearts despite fulfilling all of their dreams – only such people can come before God.

Such a person will come before God and confess, “I am helpless! I can’t live without the things God provides. What the world brings me is only despair. I desire eternal life, but I am a sinner who cannot have eternal life. I am cut off from God. Therefore, even though God has given me life and breath, I have lived without truly knowing God!”

Another person might not even acknowledge God because they don’t know God at all. However, they might still have this awareness: “I don’t even know if You exist God! But I know myself that I’ve been cursed. If God is living, I will certainly go to hell!” Yet anyone who believes, “I am a good person, so if there is a heaven and hell, I’ll probably go to heaven!” is mistaken. Such a person will never truly accept the gospel.

“If there are heaven and hell, I am bound to go to hell!” “I desire eternal happiness, but I can’t find it on this earth!” “God if You are living, then please come and meet me!” “I cannot have happiness on my own. There is no one who can make me happy!”  Only those who admit these things can truly meet God.

The sentence “I am a sinner” bears many meanings. “There are many gods in the world and I am their prey! I can’t overcome those gods. When they bring curses to me l, I haven’t any power to resist them. The world is cursed, and I am in the world. Save me!” Those who say in this way are the repentant.

However, those who do not make such confessions and simply think that this world is not bad to live in, believing in Jesus will make their lives a little better, won’t find anything even if they go to church. I apologize, but such individuals can’t meet God. That’s why you must repent. If you want to meet God, if you want to share in all the good things that God is giving, if you want to believe the gospel and become a part of His kingdom, you must repent. I bless you in Jesus’ name that a true repentance experience will take place in your lives.

Let’s pray together in this short time. Let’s all confess. Please repeat after me.

“God, I am a sinner! I am a sinner who doesn’t know God. I am a sinner that cannot receive all the good things You are giving. I am an unworthy sinner. I need Your help God. Save me!”

Father God, to those that repent in this way, I pray that You will bestow every wonderful thing of God through Jesus Christ, God’s Son. We believe that Son of God died on the cross and paid the price of all of us sinner’ sins. Truly what Jesus Christ God’s Son has done was obey God’s command in order to save us humans and we truly give thanks to You God. We rely on all the merits of the blood that Jesus Christ shed on the cross. We ask that You will reveal Yourself to everyone here. Grant them the grace to receive and enjoy everything that You have prepared for us. Help these souls to have a heart full of repentance and kneel down before God in trust. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center